Day 36 - too hilly for me
The morning temperature was very cool. My thermometer in the tent read
49 degrees. I zipped up the sleeping bag and curled into a ball. By
the time I hit the road, it was up to almost 60, so I just wore a wind-
breaker in addition to my normal clothes. The cold did slow me down -
I didn't get on the road until 10:00.
I checked my morning pulse and it was around 60 - a sure sign that I
overdid it yesterday. My normal morning pulse is around 50. I should
take it easy today, but as soon as I hit the road I hit the hills. The
map calls the terrain "rolling, with few severe hills," but as soon as I
left the campground I was in granny gear.
Every uphill has a downhill, so the ride was fun. But I have had it
easy up till now, and my legs are complaining.
Fredericksburg seems to be a nice small town with lots of historic
attractions - mostly from the Civil War. I just passed through with
only a stop at the Food Lion. For a Civil War buff this would be a
great place to visit.
I had another allergy attack that left me wanting to scratch my eyes
out. With my allergies and the hills and overdoing it yesterday, I
started thinking about making this a short day. I made a wrong turn
which put me on US 1 for a few miles, and I decided the traffic was
tolerable. So I went off the route to Aquia Pines Campground. They
give a special rate for AAA members, so it's about $18 for the night.
Looking at the map, I could rejoin the route pretty easily. But if I
stay on US 1, I can cut 20 miles off the ride into DC. US 1 it is.
I only rode 33 miles today, for a trip total of 1594.
Cicadas are out in force again today. Every wooded area sounds like
the aliens are landing.
A family with 4 (!) young girls just pulled into the tent site next
door. It reminds me of when I was a kid and we used to go camping
as a family. I can just feel the parents' hair turning grey.
Day 37 - into the Capital
The morning was cool again - 53 degrees in the tent, 50 outside - but
this time I thought to put on my rain pants so I was warm while I
broke camp. It's funny that I brought all this cold weather clothing
and yesterday I didn't take advantage of it.
I spent the first 2 hours on US 1, and traffic wasn't too bad. The
road is hilly, but I took it easy and used my low gears a lot. I
rejoined the AC route at my first opportunity, and it was nice to be
away from 60 mph traffic.
As I neared Mount Vernon, I stopped at Washington's Mill to have lunch.
This is the mill that was part of Washington's estate, where they
ground corn, wheat and probably other grains as well. Right next door
was the excavated foundataion (but no building) where Washington had
his distillery. The buildings weren't open today, but I had my lunch
on a nearby picnic table.
Soon after lunch I reached the Mount Vernon Bike Path, which runs through
a beautiful section of forest and residential areas. The only problem
with the path is that the roots from all those trees have created many
bumps on the path. I wouldn't mind much if I weren't loaded down, but
I could feel everything shift with every bump. I tried getting back
on the road, but I took a turn into a residential area and was back on
the bike path before I realized it.
As I went through Alexandria, the bike path merged with some lesser-
trafficked roads, so it became difficult to know just where the bike
path led. I think there are several criss-crossing "bike routes"
because I saw a lot of confusing signs. Once I missed a turn and
ended up almost at the airport. I backtracked about a quarter mile
and found the turn, which was a crosswalk with the paint mostly worn
There seem to be a lot of nice bike paths and parks in the DC area. The
bike path ran through quite a few parks. One time when I stopped for a
rest and to practice on my flute, I struck up a conversation with Sumner,
who is working on a PhD in music on the piano. We ended up talking for
about 2 hours, about travelling, music, and life in general.
I made it into DC at rush hour, but I was able to avoid traffic by
sticking to bike paths and sidewalks. I checked into the Washington
International AYH-Hostel, which is a bargain at $21 a night. The catch
is that accomodations are dormitory-style, with 8 people in my room.
I had to bring all my gear up to the room (in the elevator, which is
slow and used by many people) and stash it under the bed, because the
bicycle storage is in the basement.
Today's mileage: 53. Trip: 1647.
I met an Australian who was traveling around the world. He had already
been in Europe and part of the US, and he was trying to extend his time
in DC. He had recently taken a job in England to make some money for
the trip. I never got his name.
Day 38 - time to extend my stay - Tu
The best thing about visiting Washington, DC, is that once you get
here, nearly all the attractions are free. Of course I'm happy to
take advantage of the situation.
Today I went to the National Museum of American History - part of
the Smithsonian. I was thinking about only staying for 3 days in
DC, but today I didn't make it off the first floor of this museum.
I think I'll extend my stay.
There was a very interesting exhibit on materials. It displayed many
common and uncommon items that you could touch and see what materials
they were made of and why. There was even a section on bicycles (that
you couldn't touch) showing iron, steel, aluminum, wood, and fiberglass
After the museum closed at 5:30, I rode over to the Jefferson Memorial,
and then it started raining. It rained for less than half an hour, so I
just stayed inside until the rain subsided.
I rode back to the mall, past the Lincoln Memorial, and sat down on
a bench to practice on my flute. The whole area is constantly filled
with people: tourists, people exercising, people going to or from work,
homeless, and more.
I saw an albino squirrel near the Lincoln Memorial.
I'm meeting quite a few people at the Hostel, mostly from other
countries. This morning I met Ya Ling, a Malaysian student who had come
to the US to study design. I thought she was about 16, but she is 23. Boy
was I surprised!
There is a girls' choral group in the Hostel, so everywhere you turn
there are 9-10 year old girls running about.
Day 39 - the zoo - W
I spent the whole day at the zoo. The National Zoo (Smithsonian) is one
of the nicest zoos I have seen. I especially liked the insect house and
the reptile house.
The insect house has an open section that you walk through, with plants and
living insects. You could see mostly bees and butterflies and a few beetles,
but I liked the fact that it was a living ecosystem instead of a canned
The reptile house impressed me with the variety of animals inside. They
had everything from gila monsters to komodo dragons, and everything in
between. They were feeding some of the snakes, so I got to see one eat
a mouse. The kids were fascinated, and I was too.
I was surprised to find that one of the pandas had died a couple of years
ago. Ling-ling wasn't very healthy in general; they had her on antibiotics
because she was constantly getting infections, and she was never able to
carry a pregnancy to full term. The zoo received letters from around the
world when she died.
As I was riding to the zoo, I passed a guy who was picking berries from
a tree. I stopped and found they were mulberries. They are good - very
mild tasting and hard to stop eating. Later I found another at the zoo.
In most of the small animal sections of the zoo, I was constantly searching
to find the creatures in the exhibits. They are often nearly invisible,
and I was impressed by the variety of camouflage Mother Nature has devised.
Day 40 - more American History - Th
I went to see the other two floors of the National Museum of American History.
I also went back to the hands-on section on the first floor, where I played
with acids and bases. There was another group extracting DNA from cells, so
I stuck around to watch - very cool.
There was a hands-on section on the second floor where you could ride an
old high-wheeler bicycle. It's tough to get up on, and then it's like riding
a unicycle with a single training wheel. If they didn't have it strapped in
place, I don't know if I could balance on it.
I was all museum-ed out by late afternoon, so I went to the National Gallery
of Art to see if they had any music books in their store. The Gallery is
primarily for visual arts, so they had no relevant books in the store.
I looked up a couple of music stores in the yellow pages and headed across
town. I couldn't find either place, so I had dinner at the Chinese restaurant
right there. After dinner I realized the store was _upstairs_ and I ran up
and bought a book called "Teach Yourself to Play Recorder." I may want to
learn to play recorder some day, and the book has lots of music that I can
play on my flute.
I've decided that a bicycle is the best way to see DC. If you go on foot,
you get worn out walking every place. If you take a tour, you're limited
to what they want you to see. But with a bicycle, you're mobile enough
to see everything without getting worn out.
There are people renting bicycles, but they charge $29 per day! You could
rent a car for less.
Day 41 - FBI and DotI and NMoNH - F
They actually let me into the FBI building, so I guess I don't look as
scruffy as I thought. They wouldn't let me see Mulder's office, though.
The tour mostly goes through canned exhibits, but it does tell a lot
about the FBI that I didn't know. At the end of the tour they have a
firearms demonstration with revolver, semi-automatic, and full automatic
weapons. A woman demonstrated 3 weapons in a shooting gallery, making a
very nice grouping of shots. No shot was more than 4 inches from the
heart, with most falling in a 4-inch diameter circle.
From the FBI I went to the Department of the Interior museum. This is
not a well-known museum, but it's worth a visit. It gives the history
of the Park Service, BLM, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Mines, and
all the other departments that are or were part of the DoI. Much of the
museum was set up in the 30's, so some of the info is dated; but I enjoyed
I went to the National Museum of Natural History for the rest of the
afternoon. This is another museum that will take me several days to
cover. They have the Hope Diamond, but the line to see it was so long
that I decided to wait for another day.
While I was doing laundry last night, I met Katherine, who said she has been
travelling for around 10 years. She takes jobs every now and then to support
her travelling habit. She invited me to a play she is going to see tonight.
It was to be performed in Spanish (of which I understand very little), and it
would be around $15. I decided that was a lot to pay for a play I had never
heard of, so I backed out. Someone said "To love the theater is to prefer
seeing a bad play poorly produced than seeing no play at all." By that
definition I don't love the theater :-).
I don't remember exactly which day I met them, but I met two other bicycle
tourists at the Hostel. Chris and Kristy have done much the same thing as I
have: they quit their jobs to travel around the world on bicycles. They are
originally from Oregon, but they started their trip in Massachusetts and are
headed south along the coast. They plan to go to Fort Lauderdale and sign
up as crew on a boat headed to Europe, where they will continue on bike. Chris
apparently has some experience doing this, and they already had some contacts
from Sailing magazine (I think). I like the idea, and I am hoping to do
something similar on my way to Hawaii and Australia.
Day 42 - Botanic Gardens and NMoNH - Sa
The Botanic Gardens are definitely worth a trip. They're going through
some renovations, so part of the place was closed off, but the rest of
the place is enjoyable. They have a section that has plants that you
might have seen in the age of the dinosaurs, and there is a large display
of orchids. Plus they have an exhibit of medicinal plants, showing how
traditional remedies often turn into commercial drugs.
Then it was back to the Museum of Natural History to see skeletons and
stuffed animals. I was surprised to see so much human history. I guess
I never think of humans as being a part of "natural" history. They have
an excellent sea life exhibit with a saltwater aquarium that is worth seeing.
I always enjoy saltwater aquariums with the brightly colored fish and
anemones. Some of the smaller fish looked like they were painted by 1960's
Changes last made on: Fri Aug 9 14:50:42 1996