I recently spent several days in Washington, DC, for the March 1st Super Tuesday primary elections. I’m part of CNN’s decision team, which projects the outcomes of contests on election night. The whole team had meetings and rehearsals in the studio on Sunday and Monday (Feb 28-29), and then we reported for work late Tuesday afternoon.
The weather in DC was spectacular pretty much the whole time I was there. Low 60s and sunny, which felt like summer compared to Michigan. Fortunately, I’d seen the forecast before I left on the trip, and was able to plan accordingly. I packed my bike pedals, cleated shoes, helmet, shorts, jersey, and mini repair kit … and hoped I’d be able to use them. Since our rehearsals finished in the early afternoon on Sunday and Monday, and pretty much all of Tuesday could be open, I figured I had a good shot.
The challenge is always finding a good bike rental place. (There was no way I was packing up my bike and paying to ship it to DC so I could ride it for a few hours.) Fortunately, I found an excellent one that I can highly recommend: Bike and Roll. They have a number of locations throughout the District, not all of which were open yet for the season. The one at Union Station, however, was in full swing. This was only a couple of blocks from my hotel, and from CNN, so it worked out perfectly. Before leaving Michigan, I called ahead and confirmed they had road bikes.
Walking back to my hotel after Sunday’s rehearsal, I stopped and made the rental arrangements. Turns out, they had a newish Trek Madone 2.1 in my size. I filled out the paperwork as the mechanic installed my pedals and raised the seat to my level (I measured from pedal spindle to top of saddle on my own bike before leaving town, which made it quick and easy for the mechanic to get the rental bike set up perfectly). I then rode the bike the rest of the way to my hotel, mounted my Garmin Edge 500 cyclometer to the stem, attached my repair kit, changed into cycling clothes, and hit the road.
The most frustrating part was dealing with the afternoon traffic. With the beautiful weather, and the beginning of Spring Break for some schools, there were lots of tourists out downtown. I kept getting stopped at traffic light after traffic light — very frustrating for a guy who lives out in the country, and can usually just put his head down and hammer for the whole ride. I eventually made it to the Memorial Bridge, and rode across to Arlington Cemetery. From there, I’d hoped to find the W&OD trail and take it west; I’m familiar with that, from when we lived in Falls Church 20 years ago. Problem was, I couldn’t find the trail. I ended up on a major highway (US 50), with lots of traffic. At least the shoulder was reasonable, and there were few traffic lights. I went as far as Glebe Road (Virginia State Route 120), then turned around and rode back to the District. Just over 15 miles, and just over one hour of riding time (lots more, when you count stoplight time). Pretty slow, and not as much distance as I would’ve liked, but still really glad for the chance to get out.
I got the bike back to Bike and Roll in exactly two hours, so was charged $30 plus tax. I thought about just keeping the bike with me, but the daily rate would’ve been $85 – and it would’ve been due back at about the time our meetings ended on Monday…so I would’ve been paying for additional hours on top of it.
Instead, I simply told the rental guys I was likely coming back the next day. Which I did. On my way back from the rehearsal, I again stopped and got the bike. This time, the process went more quickly. I also had a better plan for riding. Went west across the District, past the Mall, and then swung up to hit Rock Creek Parkway. I got onto the nice paved bike trail that parallels the Parkway all the way up. The trail wasn’t perfect, but still a lot better than my Virginia mis-adventure. Weather was perfect, and I had plenty of time, so just kept going and going. I eventually got back on the road (Beach Drive), cleared the District boundaries, and crossed under the Capital Beltway. Climbed a huge hill, just past the enormous Mormon Temple. I turned around at the top of that hill, which was about 16 miles from where I’d started. Went screaming all the way back down into the District. The road surface wasn’t great (I dodged a lot of potholes), but it’s hard to do much better in an urban environment. BTW, I averaged 15.1 MPH on the way up, and 17.2 MPH on the way down. My return route was about a mile shorter, so I logged 30.7 miles. That’s 46 miles over the course of the two days.
I returned the bike after three hours, so was charged $45 plus tax. With tax, that’s a little less than $80 for the two afternoons (I ended up needing to work all day Tuesday before the rehearsal, so couldn’t rent the bike a third day). Was the $80 worth it? I sure think so. Sure beat sitting around a hotel room, or strolling along the Mall, which is what I would’ve been doing otherwise. I was able to log some quality miles, and to see a new part of the District. Next time, I plan to chart a more efficient route to Rock Creek, so I’ll hopefully be able to go even farther into Maryland. Once I cleared the Beltway, the roads were getting downright rural. I could’ve stayed on roads like that for hours. Another possibility might be to take the bike on the Metro, so I could begin the ride out in Maryland.
Again, I highly recommend Bike and Roll if you’re going to be in DC. They have all kinds of bikes, depending on the kind of riding you want to do. The Madone 2.1 was perfect for my needs. Good geometry, solid Shimano 105 10-speed components, and fit me close enough. Would I want it as my main bike? No. Was it an excellent rental for a couple of afternoons? Absolutely. It’s hard to find a bike this good at a rental spot.
And for those who have asked: Yes, I was on television Tuesday evening. Sort of. The decision team works behind the scenes, which is my preference. I don’t like being in the spotlight. However, whenever CNN’s political director was on camera discussing exit poll results, I happened to be visible over his left shoulder in the background. Not in great focus, but clear enough so the kids back home were able to recognize me. My son snapped this screenshot: