I am, to be sure, a more daring cyclist than I was a year and a half ago. (Then again, I was wobbling down the sidewalk and learning how to shift gears right about then.) In the ensuing months, I've made it down the treacherous Highway One along the Pacific coastline. I've gone head to head with 18-wheelers barreling down midwestern state highways and across Texas. I made it past the orneriest drivers in America on my way through Alabama -- 'nuff said. I am a seasoned cyclist by now, or at least that's what people tell me. So what if my DC Bike Map tells me there is no direct way to ride from Columbia Heights to Bethesda, where I would be meeting my friend Preeti for a little farmers' market shopping and dinner? Was I supposed to go all the way around to the Capital Crescent Trail? That would be miles out of my way, and I certainly wouldn't take it at night on the way home.
Military Road looked like a decently fast route, though was marked as "poor" for biking on my map. No bike lanes, I knew, but was the designation due to no road shoulders or poor road quality or visibility issues, or what? (Before you say it, Aaron, I would've have checked google maps if my laptop were not in the clutches of the tech team over at Best Buy for the last 2 and a half weeks.) Bah. I was convinced I'd seen worse. Take my misguided jaunt up Colesville Road on my way through Silver Spring last Saturday -- now THAT was harrowing (and also, incidentally, a signed "bike route"). Still, I was certain things were probably better than the outdated city bike map taped to my wall since the winter of 2009 might suggest. I mean, there was an actual bike lane on 15th Street that wasn't on the map: maybe the city was more bikeable than it was when I left. Anyway, I wouldn't be biking during rush hour, how bad could it be?
I am now thinking the successful circumnavigation of the country had temporarily caused me to act a little too big for my bike shorts. (Dang, and after all of the effort I made not to fall prey to hubris....) As usual, the universe stepped in to put me in my place.
In this case, the wake up call came in the form of yesterday's truculent motorists on Military Road (and Western Avenue, which I mistakenly turned onto thinking it was Wisconsin Avenue, and which sported potholes that could swallow a school bus). Oh, I made it to Bethesda with Ollie and all of my limbs intact, but I was pretty shaken up. Cars zooming past, no road shoulder, treacherous road surfaces and, oh, the hills! Ollie and I were relatively unladen, save for a change of clothes and tupperwareful of muffins, and yet I felt the familiar lactic acid buildup in the legs as I chugged up one hill after another as automobiles flew past a little too closely for comfort. (At least we escaped the late afternoon rainstorm, I suppose.) We took a different route back: down Wisconsin Avenue -- a "fair" road, according to the bike map -- cutting through Woodley Park and Adams Morgan on the way home to Columbia Heights. We made it back with much less swearing, swerving, and brake clutching. (There was still a little grumbling about the bumps in the road and streetlights still out after last weekend's storm, and Ollie chimed in with noticeably louder rear wheel grinding.)
Ollie's in the shop at the moment, getting her rear hub worked on by the capable mechanics over at The Bike Rack, but when we're back out on the road I'm thinking I might need to consult an updated DC bike map a little more closely. And I'm thinking of putting one of these signs up at either end of Military Road....