100.1 miles. That’s how many miles I biked this past weekend. On Saturday morning I met up with three St. Mary’s alums for our weekend biking extravaganza. We met at 10am near the Kennedy Center in DC. Let me back up, we were supposed to meet at 10am. After living with Tom for two years in college, I should have remembered that Tom operates in a different time zone. Let’s just say we got started before 11am.
From the Kennedy Center we biked up through Georgetown and across the Key Bridge. We then grabbed the Mt. Vernon trail for a short bit to take us down to Reagan National Airport. If you’ve ever been on this path, you know that one of the coolest things is that the planes literally fly 10 feet above your head (ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration) as they come in for their landing.
After stopping to watch a couple planes we biked a bit further down the path until we forked off onto the Four Mile Run Trail. This brought us to the start of the W&OD trail. The W&OD trail used to be the railway bed for the Washington & Old Dominion Railway which ran from 1859-1968. Now the trail is a park that is 100 feet wide by 45 miles long. We biked 35 miles along this trail to Leesburg, VA. Our grand total for day #1 was 49.6 miles. After biking 50 miles we thought it would be best to stretch our legs in a different fashion and walked into town for dinner.
Leesburg has an amazing number of restaurants with well dressed people eating in them. We were the opposite of well dressed. We did shower before going to dinner, but we definitely didn’t look like high society. We finally settled on the Georgetown Cafe & Bakery which was a wonderful choice. Our waiter was great and kept the glasses of milk coming as Tom & I attempted to rehydrate. Sarah, Theresa, and Tom all decided to try out the turkey club, while I went rogue with a sloppy joe.
Next morning, we rode 4-5 miles up to Whites Ferry where we crossed the Potomac on the shortest ferry ride of my life. The river is probably only 100 yards wide and a very affordable $1 per biker. Once you reach the northern bank of the Potomac the first thing you notice is there is no longer a paved path. Instead we rode the crushed stone and clay of the C&O Canal Towpath. The towpath is 184.5 miles long and runs from Cumberland, MD to DC. The canal was built between 1828 and 1850 and mules would help pull barges through the canal, thus the towpath. On the towpath you meet everyone from dayhikers to bikers pedaling all the way from Pittsburgh to DC. Here we thought we had accomplished something huge by biking 100 miles and we met someone who had biked 360 miles from Pittsburgh in two days by pedaling straight through the night. Would you guess that bats were the biggest hazard he faced while biking through the night?
What does this have to do with St. Mary’s? Not much to be honest except to say that the friends you will make at St. Mary’s will last a lifetime. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to take this journey with Tom, Sarah, and Theresa. Also, St. Mary’s is a great place to discover a love of biking.
As you visit many colleges you may have noticed that most campuses have a layout organized around a quad, a nice big green space surrounded by buildings. If you’ve visited St. Mary’s, you probably know our campus is a little bit different. First of all, we have a rather large campus. For a student body a hair under 2,000 students, our 361 acres means that there is an acre for every 5-6 students. Instead of being organized around a quad, our campus is organized around a winding trail that will take you from one end of campus to the other. As a result bikes are quite popular on campus.
If you choose to venture off-campus, the roads of St. Mary’s County are very bike friends with extremely wide shoulders. What about mountain biking? St. Mary’s County even has that. Just head 10 minutes up Route 5 to St. Mary’s River State Park in Callaway where 8 miles of singletrack await you. You’ll typically see me there two nights a week.