Leesburg, VA to Washington, DC
354.02 miles total
When I woke up this morning, my right arm felt like someone punched me hard on the shoulder. Although my forearm was scraped up from yesterday, I didn’t fully realize how much of the impact from the fall I had taken on my arm until today. I looked at my rainjacket– sure enough, it was torn up at the shoulder.
Breakfast was on our own this morning. Some opted for Chinese food for breakfast; I had an apple and a Tastykake pumpkin pie that I had bought back in Cumberland.
The remnants of Tropical Storm Karen were still with us– for the third straight day in a row, it was raining. We joked that we had forgotten what it was like to ride in sunny, dry weather. We were by now more than okay with riding in the rain, but we were unanimously against going back to the highway. We did have another option, though– the Washington & Old Dominion Trail (W&OD) was just behind the hotel. Although it would have been nice to ride the last miles of the C&O, especially for David, who had never ridden them, we concluded that it would be great just to ride to DC. We did decide that we would still head to Georgetown and end at Mile 0 of the C&O Canal Trail.
Riding on the paved W&OD was both familiar and strange at the same time. Familiar in that I’ve ridden the trail from Leesburg before, but strange in that after spending a week practically in seclusion in the forest, it felt like we were suddenly thrust into civilization. Despite the rain, there were joggers and spandex-clad cyclists on the trail. We actually looked a little out of place with our laden panniers.
Because the trail was familiar to me, I went into the mindset that usually accompanies riding it– racing. At one point, I looked down at my biking computer and saw I was pedaling at 20 mph. When I made a pit stop somewhere around Herndon, VA (an open port-a-potty! and it was clean!), I suddenly felt very conflicted. I was happy to be heading home, but I didn’t want this ride to end. I was having such a great time with my friends, and I was feeling really good. I resolved to ride more slowly from this point forward and savor the remaining time I had left.
We had lunch in Vienna, VA. We rode on the trail, taking the bridges over the multi-laned interstate highways. We cursed the urban density of Northern Virginia.
Somewhere along the way, I felt the need to let our Bike DC friends know that we were on our way home. I sent a Tweet, asking if anyone was around to meet us at the C&O Mile 0 marker. MG said she would meet us!
We stopped briefly at the point where the W&OD intersects with the Custis Trail. Nathan remarked, “What is that glowing orb in the sky?” At long last, the sun peeked out from the clouds. We shed our rain gear and rode on.
We took the Key Bridge into Georgetown. From there, our group had a miscommunication and split into two. Steve, David, and Jane went to see the locks in Georgetown; Nathan and I went through Georgetown in traffic to the waterfront. They had gone ahead to the Mile 0 marker while we waited, wondering where they were. We got their text and then headed to the Thompson Boat Center.
As promised, MG and Felkerino were waiting for us at the finish. It was so great to see them! We got a hero’s welcome, complete with photo shoot.
MG and Felkerino offered to escort me home. I was slightly worried that I had forgotten how to get there (I didn’t), so I took them up on the kind offer. It was so nice to chat with them on the ride and tell them a little about our journey.
I made it to my apartment. R and the dog were home to greet me.
Later that evening, the group and the spouses who didn’t ride with us got together for dinner in Arlington. We had one last meal together, telling tales about the ride, learning about what was going on while we were away. And then we said goodbye– David and his wife were driving back home to Pittsburgh, and the rest of us went back to our respective homes in DC. I was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed that night.