Monday, May 28, 2007


It is Memorial Day weekend and we have spent 80 miles of time on the W&OD trail. We are training for a long tour and appreciate the auto-free beauty of the trail for these many miles. We saw a tiny box turtle out near Leesburg, and a pair of chipmunks chased each other on the Reston plateau. Bird song followed us everywhere, and a bluebird darted across in front of us near Ashburn. The wildflowers are transitioning to their summer glory. As the multiflora rosa and blackberries fade, the elderberry is near peak. Mountain laurel and goatsbeard are out now, and in the quiet corners you can find the small but perfect Deptford pink and Venus' looking glass. Goatsbeard photo (left) courtesy Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Box turtle photo courtesy Steven Pinker, Harvard University.

Riding home we saw the lively celebration of Viva Vienna, and we thought of the reason for Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A New Wheel

Commute this morning was my first outing on my brand new rear wheel. There were many bicycles on the W&OD today. Faster ones. Shinier ones. Fancier ones. But none had a wheel quite like mine. It has 36 spokes and a sleek black rim enchanted with resilient strength. My old [cracked] wheel now adorns the Wall of Worn-out Bicycle Parts.

Nature was overflowing onto the trail today: Two baby bunnies and a racing Chipmunk near the intersection with Custis Trail. A Baltimore Oriole at ~mile 5. And Yellow Flag iris along Four-Mile Run through Falls Church. The Yellow Flag is a wildflower native to Europe and can be invasive here, but it is lovely nonetheless. Oriole photo courtesy Arlington County Public Schools. Iris photo courtesy University of Connecticut.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bike to Work Day 2007

Streams of the sleek and the sturdy flowed along the W&OD this morning. The overcast skies didn't stop anyone from having a wonderful time passing cars creeping along in traffic.
Stop to smell the roses at about mile 7.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rhapsody in Pollen

Summertime.... and the weather is windy

Pollen is flyin', and the temp'rature's high

One of these mornin's, I'm gonna rise up singin'

"Git outta my eyeballs, you're makin' them dry..."

With apologies to DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin. Mixed pollen photo courtesy Iowa State University.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I am reveling in this spring. Taking each day and turning it to the light. Pulling the welcome warmth from the rising sun. Today, the trail was bulging with riders and walkers and strollers and bladers and chipmunks and catbirds. Watch the glass at mile 21.

A jaunt from Vienna to Herndon with friends was a wagon train of 'on your left's and the lean sound of speed bikes passing and passing us. In our wake, the buttercups and wild geraniums (pictured) swayed in the breeze. Wild azalea and wild cherry are about over --- although the tent caterpillars are just peaking in the cherry trees. Be sure to watch for the glorious mountain laurel just bursting into bloom at the crest of the hill west of Hunter Mill Road.

Multiflora rosa and blackberry perfumed the moist air for our morning ride. Riding back through Vienna I saw Cathy Delgado making final preparations for the dedication of the new Vienna Town Green next to the trail. She was instrumental in bringing this urban jewel to fruition, and we all owe her a debt of gratitude.

Late today I was able to get back out for a ride with my son, and we left the trail in the Difficult Run valley. We were transported to a land before time: a bottomland swamp forest dense with enormous skunk cabbage, blooming Jack-in-the-pulpit and mammoth tulip poplar trees. While we ate a picnic supper at streamside, we watched a swarm of midges gaily dancing above us. I explained to him that they were all males, swooping and darting, waiting for a female to enter the swarm and then rise with her chosen mate above the remaining males below. He suggested that the technical term for the remaining males should be "losers." We watched this ballet with great interest until the sky began to darken, and then we explored the stream for a while until it started to rain.

Back on the trail we looked west through the light rain to where the setting sun was a rich red dipping below the clouds. Then we headed east toward home, nodding to the deer watching from the shadows and racing each other in breathless sprints that he somehow always won.
Biophilia is love of nature.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Breezy Byway

The wind was strong and fickle today. Mostly from the north, but gusting from the northeast and northwest just enough to give me a tippy adrenalin jolt every now and then. The leaves have filled in since last weekend, and many of the early spring wildflowers are over. Trees are still blooming though, including a few late Dogwood, the lacy white Viburnum, the lovely creamy Black Locust (tasty scattered on a salad if from a clean, car-free area), the regal purple Empress of India tree, and of course the various oaks and other hardwoods. The pollen was pretty dense --- helped in its mission to find other tree flowers by the high winds.

Watch for the glass on the trail in Leesburg. We got some of it, but a bike that came by later flatted anyway.

The cathedral area between Leesburg and Purcellville shown in the photo was spectacular. We saw signs that warned of a battle to save the trail from a new powerline.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Falls Church - Vienna, Monday 4/30

Trail conditions are excellent overall, and lots of living things are re-emerging as the weather warms. Lots of blossoms of various types... unlike idabike, I can't help you identify them, unfortunately. Critters are also out and about... Monday evening I slowed to a stop when I saw the three fox kits cavorting right next to the trail! They are getting bigger, and clearly more independent of mom, but I have to admit, it worries me to see them right at the side of, and at one point on the trail, when people were about. Bizarre moment.. a pair of joggers went by, one after the other, within five feet of the little kits, and didn't even notice them, or apparently wonder why I was pulled over watching the underbrush. I guess they were "in the zone" or something. Me, I look around and enjoy the scenery when I ride, but I don't view it primarily as a workout, so I'm different.

Anyway, if you see the kits, please give them a wide berth... wild things need to stay wild.

One other incident of note... near the Vienna Community Center in the morning, there was a crew cutting up a fallen tree right on the path. Apparently they had moved the barricade on the east end of their work area to move a truck, and hadn't replaced it yet, so the obstruction was a suprise to me and another rider. Also a surprise was the anger of the guy with the chainsaw, who yelled at us for not stopping, saying "couldn't you see I had a chainsaw?" Well, yes, but without the barricade, it was too late by the time I saw him. And if they were so concerned about cyclists coming upon them with the saw running, why didn't they wait until they had restored the barricade? Ah well, just a series of missteps on both sides... I should have stopped and announced my presence, and they should have made sure the barricade was up while cutting.