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DC to the Forest

The lads (now four deep) had to be ready to roll at 7am the next day. I did not, but had no choice but to wake up. After they left, I showered and packed. I had more work to do on the interwebs, but there was no wifi at the hotel (at least not for free). I headed out for food, coffee and wifi. I found coffee but no good food options (at least not on the path I was traveling on). Eventually I wound up in Arlington using wifi and eating food, where I met a young man who had done two bike tours. He was very encouraging and had some great advice. As I readied myself to ride further, I was struck by how hot it was. Fortunately the first twenty miles were along the river on a greenway.

At one point I stopped at a bike shop to put air in my tires. The guys there indicated I would be safe and fine riding down US-1. I listened and wished I hadn’t. It’s a four lane highway, not divided. And unknown to me, I-95 was undergoing lots of construction so everyone was using 1, which largely parallels 95. It sucked. I got passed by cars going 80mph while I was straddling the white line. At one point, some jackass in a RV decided he would pass me on a turn. Going up hill. He was kind enough (sarcasm) to give a light honk before he passed within inches of me, forcing me onto the nonexistent shoulder. I slammed on my brakes, pulled over as far as I could and took several deep breaths. What the hell was this jackass of a human being thinking? “I’ll pass this cyclist here on the curve while he’s pedaling uphill. All I have to do is let him know and it will be ok.” After he almost hit me, he completely crossed over the white line with half his gigantic RV. I continued to take deep breaths and vowed to get off that road. I’d rather be slow getting somewhere and alive, than be early and injured or be dead. It was a serious blow to my mental game.
About the mental game; it’s significantly different from anything else. On the bike, not only are you dealing with the physical components, but also the public at large. And if you’ve ever driven, ridden, walked, or otherwise watched a car, you should know most people are idiots and can’t drive. The mental component of trying to anticipate how someone is going to drive is daunting. You’re helpless. All it takes is someone texting, answering a phone call, eating a Snickers, and WHAM, tour over. Not to mention the mental exercise of anticipating potholes, dead animals and trash all over the roads. I wanted to enjoy riding as much as visiting breweries and meeting people. Up to this point, the riding had only been a means of shuttling myself between watering holes. I decided it was time to enjoy riding.

I eventually got to a point where I could get away from the traffic. As I was extremely dehydrated, I stopped at a gas station and chugged water and gatorade, then ate some dirty taquitos, which although sinfully bad for you tasted great. I was hungry, thirsty and tired. It was time to find a place to sleep. Fortunately I was near Prince William Forest Park, a NPS ran forest adjacent to Quantico. I called to ask about camping and was told to come to the main office. It was 15 miles away, but there were numerous wide sidewalks in the area, which I took full advantage of. I made it twenty minutes before they closed and got my campsite in the backcountry. I had bought some food stuff from the gas station (jalapeño chips, two packs of ramen, a snickers, couple of beers, and M&Ms), and was ready to get to camp. I had three more miles of riding and another ten minutes of hiking. Eventually I found my site, hung the hammock, and crawled in to cool down. It was glorious, swinging in the breeze with no one around; hearing the birds and frogs call to a back drop of military gun fire and announcements. After dinner, I passed out without the rainfly over my hammock. I was awakened several times during the night when I thought I heard thunder, only to realize it was more gun fire. It was still the best nights sleep I’ve had on this tour yet.

 

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