Monday, February 26, 2007

Some clear, some messy

Rode home after dark on the trail tonight. There are already some long stretches that are basically clear, due to the relatively warm day we had. On the other hand, significant stretches are pretty well covered with snow and slush. Apparently a truck drove the path after the snow, and in some areas helped it to melt faster in the tire tracks. However, in the areas where it did NOT fully melt, the truck tire ruts make for additional challenges. While it succeeded in packing down the snow a bit, it left a distinct "wall" on the edges of the ruts, which can really make it interesting if you let your front wheel wander into it. And while it looks like the tire ruts are single ruts, apparently the truck had dual wheels on the back, so you get two narrow ruts separated by a ridge... also challenging. So while some stretches are clear, there are pretty major stretches you may find yourself walking, or at least struggling to ride, especially in the usual Gallows to Cedar area.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Silence on the trail

The trail is muffled in about 5 inches of glorious snow. Every twig is picked out pretty in white. It is mid-afternoon on Sunday and the fine cold drizzle has started. Here is the trail at about mile 10 looking east (left) and west (right).

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mostly clear from Reston to Vienna

The trail is mostly clear of snow and ice from around mile 16 near Sunrise Valley Dr in Reston to Vienna. Just east of Sunrise Valley is a patch of snow where I had to walk a few feet. For most of the stretch I could ride in the tracks of a truck that had passed through. Once through that stretch it was clear up to Buckthorn Lane and almost to Hunter Mill Road. The photo at the left is looking west from the Hunter Mill Rd./Trail intersection. There's a stretch of less than a 1/4 mile that's still icy and required walking. From there east to Vienna it was clear sailing. It sure felt good to get back on the bike.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Actually worse, in some ways...

Some areas, like that shown at right (the hill to the 66 overpass on the Vienna side), are virtually clear and fine to ride. However, just west of here, including the Cedar to Gallows stretch (far right), there is a considerable amount of heavy slush and wet snow still on the trail. It was actually harder to keep going today than it was when it was all frozen over, so I cut over on Sandburg to Cottage and rode in to the shop that way. If I had had the time, I would have stuck to it and made it a learning experience, but John likes it when I make it to work.

The studs helped a bit, but the big challenge is just the sheer density of the slush. Really hard to make any headway, and still slippery as heck. I can't honestly recommend riding the trail at this point, unless you want a challenge.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Not for the faint of heart... or strong of brain?!?!

Perhaps Pooh said it best... "I am a bear of Very Little Brain..."

But today I decided to ride in to bikes@vienna from home in Falls Church, including about 3 miles (8.5 to 11.8) on the W&OD. The picture at left was taken around 9:00am on Friday the 16th, just on the Vienna side of mile post 10.5.

As you can see, the trail is covered in snow... and it's a hard, crusty snow at that. If it weren't for my studded tires, I'm not sure I'd have been able to do it, as it seems the best bet is to pick a path to the side of the trail, where the crust is unbroken (and remains so, even under about 200 lbs of me and my bike... note the absence of tire tracks behind my bike). It was sketcy in some places, where the path is narrow and completely broken up with footprints, but most of the way there was smooth riding to the side.

While it was fun, in a weird way (I like challenges), I can't recommend it to most folks, unless you want to a) do a lot of work, including the mental work of picking a good path and b) invest in some studded tires... mine are 106 stud Nokians, which seem great. They really helped me feel secure on even the icy parts of local back streets.

Oh, and since the riding took so much concentration, the only wildlife report I can give is to say I heard a woodpecker of some kind enthusiatically going at his work near Cedar Lane.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Re: Intersection at Gallows

I have seen this kind of behavior at other lights at Trail crossings. I tend to get mad. But not for too long. I try to get a good look at the type of vehicle, the driver, and the license plate number. I then visit the Fairfax County Police Aggressive Driver Report Form where I describe what happened. I've been told that a letter is sent to the vehicle registrant about their bad behavior.

In this case, I hope the motorist was decurled.


My ride home last night was an exercise in balance. The trail was covered by an inch or so of wet snow and ice and my bike wanted to slither. I inflated my imaginary confidence balloons and pedaled through the white night. This morning we have several inches of heavy snow, capped with an ice crust. Mile 10 looking East (left) and West.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Intersecting at Gallows

This morning I had a little excitement at the Gallows Road crossing. I had the light, and was actually into the intersection, when I was joined by a motor vehicle blasting North along Gallows Road. The vehicle did not even slow down: it even passed a car that had stopped for the red light. Fortunately, I had just had my brake pads replaced by my pals at Bikes at Vienna and was able to stop neatly several inches shy of the white behemoth SUV. I got a close look at the driver, a woman with dark hair attractively curled.

So, be careful if you are one who sprints to best Jan Ulrich in the time trial, soaring into that intersection as the clock ticks down, pumping your fists into the air past the finish line, modestly donning the yellow jersey for the remainder of your commute.

And who among us has not?

I didn't get mad at the woman. I just used the special magic that all bicycle commuters posess to take all of the curls out of one side of her hair. I expect she'll notice that.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday Feb. 11, 2007 Leesburg

The trail is practically clear from Belmont Ridge to Catoctin Circle in Leesburg. Some patches of snow/ice near Tuscarora Creek but nothing to worry about. Goose Creek Bridge is clear as is underpass at Rt. 15.

38 degrees, light winds and sunny made for a decent ride today. Get out your winter gear and ride. Looks like weather is moving in later this week......


One day later

What a difference a day makes. Even though it was cold yesterday, there was quite a bit of melting on the trail. Take advantage while it lasts: Monday we are due for more snow. These are from ~mile 10. Left is looking East toward Cedar Lane, right is looking west.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

West of Cedar Lane to Park

Still a lot of snow on the trail, although open areas are increasing. There are plenty of icy patches now. Be careful out there. Here are some photos I snapped this morning.

Looking west about mile 10 (left) and east (right)

Friday, February 9, 2007

Mile 8.5 to Mile 11.8 (Virginia Lane to Church Street)

There's a thin layer of more or less packed snow on major portions of the trail here. Luckily, it's not so deep that serious ruts have formed, nor is it terribly icy. It's rideable with care, but I was happy to have my studded tires today. Watch out for the transition areas where the snow stops and the dry pavement starts... those areas are icy, and will get icier as the sun melts things today and it freezes up later. As usual, the worst stretch is between Gallows and Cedar, and the clearest is that tiny section between Maple and Church in downtown Vienna. I guess that's the one upside of them having cut all the trees down in preparation for the town green.

I'll have to try to remember to snap a picture next time.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Icy west of Hunter Mill Rd

It's still pretty icy and snow covered just west of Hunter Mill Rd. This spot gets almost no sun and will likely remain like this until there's a long warm spell. East of HM Rd it looks relatively clear.

When I got ready to leave work at around 7:15 p.m. I was glad that I wasn't going to be riding along the icy trail in 20° weather.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Seen from a distance

Just back from a trip to sub-zero South Dakota. The snow on the W&OD looks very pretty from a distance. It's definitely a lot warmer here, but commuting will be chancy for a few days except for people with knobby or studded tires and elbows.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Bright, cold, mostly clear

Yesterday and today, patches of ice that are easily avoided. The W&OD is greened on either side by Japanese honeysuckle (scientific name Lonicera japonica) during winter. Honeysuckle is evergreen, even though the leaves look like those of deciduous broad-leaved plants. Red-tailed hawk soaring over Vienna, and a little lower, a Turkey vulture tipped to examine us. We're not dead yet!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Seeing stars

Ice on the trail late morning in Vienna area was flat, mostly visible, rice krispy-sounding. No worries.

Tonight: glittering stars on the pavement as ice crystals formed. Full moon.

Thursday, February 1, 2007


The moon will not be full until tomorrow, but riding west on the W&OD last night it was bright over my shoulder. I like to cover my headlamp for a few moments and enjoy how it lights the night. Weather coming in today. Ride well.