Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Nation's Capital

I've been traveling to Washington, DC, occasionally for business, but I never got a chance to get over to see the Capitol Building, the White House or any of the monuments. Last week I finally got a chance. From my hotel room you could see the Capitol Dome.

A couple blocks away there was a bike share station.

A swipe of the credit card and I was on my way. The bikes are pretty basic, low performance bikes. They get the job done but they're not very fancy and not very fast. They do have some good features such as integrated head and tail lights, driven off a dynamo I believe, and also a front rack with a permanently attached bungee cord. They also have a long seatpost with markings on it so once you dial in how high you want the seat, you can quickly reset it on subsequent rides.

The credit card transaction was pretty straightforward. For a one-day rental it costs $5 for a membership, the first half hour is free, and then there is a charge thereafter until you turn the bike in at a bike share station. You don't have to turn it in at the same station where you checked it out, and there are quite a few stations around. I think the total rental for a few hours was about $10, but the one thing I didn't like was I didn't see a way to get a final receipt after checking the bike back in.

Directions were pretty easy; the Washington Monument provided a great landmark from pretty much anywhere in the touristy area of DC.

I took the Mount Vernon Trail from Crystal City in Arlington, crossed the Potomac River on the 14th Street bridge, and found myself on the edge of DC.

I wasn't sure how much time this would really take, so I didn't go into any of the buildings; I just looked around from the outside. My primary landmark, up close this time:

There were several blocks of massive government buildings. Here is the Commerce Department

Across the street I noticed a couple of commuter bikes locked up. There was an old Schwinn Collegiate

...and a pretty nice Raleigh Super Grand Prix.

Near the White House I caught up with a tour group on bicycles. The guide was telling the group about how Truman had a piano moved and the floors were in such bad shape that the piano fell through!

I headed over to the Capitol Dome. Bicycle traffic was really kind of different in the touristy area of DC. There were some on-street bike lanes, wide sidewalks, although there were a lot of tourists on foot, and at times I rode out in the traffic lanes. Maybe just because there were so many people (the weather was beautiful), nowhere seemed quite right for riding.

I felt safe enough, but when I rode on the street I got caught in the rush hour traffic and noticed a lot of cyclists were making good time on the sidewalks and footpaths. When I rode on them myself, they seemed kind of crowded with people. I didn't have any incidents, though. I suppose riding a bicycle in DC would take some getting used to.

I made it over to the Capitol Building.

When I turned around I was looking down the National Mall and back at my old landmark, the Washington Monument.

Somehow I expected the National Mall to be a very well-kept, formal lawn with perfectly trimmed grass. Over by the memorials this is the case, but on the National Mall and the Ellipse, the grass was overgrown a bit, and there were a lot of groups playing kickball, dodge ball or softball. I suppose the memorials are America's front lawn, but the National Mall is America's back yard.

I rode back toward my landmark and beyond, to the World War II Memorial

Beyond that was the Lincoln Memorial.

There are also lesser memorials, such as this one of John Paul Jones.

I got a nice pic of the Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin.

And as I left the area, one more shot of the Jefferson Memorial, with my old landmark, the Washington Memorial, behind it.

Then it was back over the river and south on the Mount Vernon Trail.

I didn't mention it earlier, but the trail goes through Gravelly Point Park which is just north of the main runway of Washington Reagan National Airport.

Several people were just hanging out, watching the jets take off over them. So I did, too.

Here you can see the main tower for the airport.

From there it was a short ride back to my hotel in Crystal City. Altogether I rode about 12 miles to, from, and around the Nation's Capital.


Big Oak said...

I got to spend a week out there last year, for work. We were busy enough, each day, that I didn't have enough time to rent a bike. I envied those folks tooling around on two wheels.

Your photos turned out beautifully. That is quite a special place. And while we often make fun of the people who run our government, it is one of the best.

Steve A said...

The trail looks really relaxing.

Avus said...

Interesting blog to me, a "Limey"
Those rental bikes seem much the same as our London ones as to build, equipment and costs.

Thanks, Doohickie

cliff said...

If you have time you should check
out the C&O canal. It's towpath
runs 184 miles to Cumberland.
I have been cycling on it off and
on since 1978. It is the main reason
we bought our retirement house in

Doohickie said...


They recently brought some bikes to Fort Worth as a show & tell for local officials; bike sharing may be coming here soon.

Chandra said...

Great report! I never rode a bike in DC, but I would love to go check out all the cool places you visited some day.

Peace :)