Monumental indeed. The kids started school this morning, including our younger son who attended his first day of kindergarten. Summer is over according to the students although the calendar may not agree. Actually it ended a couple of weeks ago when my strangely popular Ferry pages began their cyclical readership drop as I’ve observed in previous years. Either way, we had one last opportunity to take advantage of this waning season.
He’d just removed the training wheels from his bicycle in July and quickly became an expert. Yes, we did experience the tumble over the handlebars on the big hill in August, but two days later he conquered that same demon and never looked back. He’d perfected his technique and we started to work on distance. Monday was the big graduation. I drove him down to the George Washington Memorial Parkway and we parked at Roosevelt Island. From there we biked to Gravelly Point and back, a distance of about six miles (~9.7 km). That’s a pretty impressive feat for a five-year-old.
We followed the Mt. Vernon trail directly along the Potomac River. It’s paved asphalt with a few easy curves, very light hills, and unparalleled scenery of the city and its monuments. It also avoids every motor vehicle roads for the full portion we traveled. In other words, it’s perfect for a young, inexperienced cyclist.
View Larger Map
This Google Map approximates the route using the GW Parkway. Apparently one can’t imbed a bicycle path so look here if you want to see the actual route we took.
We began our morning at the Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial. I filmed this video back in 2009 but things haven’t changed much since then so please forgive me for recycling the footage. You can see the bike path in the first few frames. You can also always check my page on the permanent site if you’re interested in learning more. We didn’t linger though. We pressed on.
We encountered plenty of monumental views as we pedaled along the riverside. I’m particularly fond of this perspective, with the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument aligned. I couldn’t see any of the cracks in the Washington Monument from the recent earthquake. Hopefully those have been repaired by now.
This angle also offered a clear view of the often-overlooked Watergate Steps on the riverbank leading down from the Lincoln Memorial. They had nothing to do with the infamous Watergate scandal in case you were wondering. Oddly enough however, the Watergate Complex of said scandal did take its name from these steps. They were envisioned as some sort of grand entrance into the city for dignitaries arriving by boat. That plan never came to fruition. They also served as bleachers for symphony orchestra concerts held from a floating platform in the river for awhile during the mid-20th Century. Otherwise the Watergate Steps remain an obscure feature that hapless friends and relatives have to endure when I’m asked to tour them through the city during their visits
The ride continued.
We arrived at the Humpback Bridge which continues to retain that curious name even though the hump was flattened with its recent refurbishment. This narrow waterway is the entire distance that separates the District of Columbia from Virginia at this point.
View Larger Map
Much of our ride took place in the District although it doesn’t seem like it. The Mt. Vernon trail crosses the entire length of Columbia Island. Virginia and the District do not share the river, it belongs to the District as do any of the islands. Thus, this is part of the District even if the rest of its territory is a distance away and Virginia sits on the other side of the narrow Boundary Channel. This is an enjoyable geo-oddity that I’ve featured before. It’s doubly fun while traveling along at bicycle sped.
We arrived at the highlight of the trip, at least in the eyes of a five year old, when we hit Gravelly Point. Airplanes come so close that one can see the faces of individual passengers. This footage comes from 2008, but again, it wouldn’t have added much to film it again and you get the point. We stopped for a snack and watched the show.
The bicycle ride back to the car was equally enjoyable.
For our next trick, I’m going to condition him so we can reach my favorite brewpub and return safely home. That would be about ten miles altogether.