On the seventh day it rained.
Until then, showers were predicted every day but nary a drop fell. This day was forecast to be dry and it sprinkled off and on most of the morning– so much for meteorology.
From Brunswick we cycled 20 miles to White’s Ferry. Because of the drizzle we made fewer picture stops than usual and arrived before noon.
Opened in 1817, the cable boat operation was purchased by Elijah V. White, a confederate hero, after the Civil War. Early in his career, Captain White was a battalion commander of Virginia Calvary known as “White’s Comanches” because of their war cries and sudden raids on enemy targets. At the end of the war, Lt. Col. White and his men did not surrender with the rest of the army, but instead rode around enemy lines and disbanded back home. Besides buying the ferry, White also farmed, served as county sheriff and president of a bank in Leesburg.
Can you imagine? After participating in a war that ended in 600,000 deaths, you ride home and go back to business only miles from what was the enemy?
Around noon we caught the ferry and landed in Virginia. The free shuttle provided by Comfort Suites in Leesburg met us. After checking in we found our way to a car wash to spray the crud off the Treks and then to Bicycle Outfitters for some oil and a brake pad replacement. Chatting up the mechanics while they worked, we learned of the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail. We were told it was more direct and we considered it for our route; when we learned it was paved we were sold.
To date I’ve crabbed about the conditions of the C&O, but all in all it was a wonderful ride. I’m sure a lot of dedicated people put in countless hours getting it in the condition it is today, and it is a national asset. Yet, if you’ve ever put in a 150 miles on wet gravel, you also understand the allure of asphalt. Someday we hope to return.
The lack of sleep the night before sent us to bed early.
The next morning we rolled well-rested onto the W&OD, which conveniently ran behind the motel and proved to be as represented: paved and straight. However, it was rolling, something unusual for a trail built on a rail bed, and we definitely noticed the climbs with our extra 40-odd pounds each of gear. We didn’t mind climbing the hills, however, because we were also able to enjoy the exhilaration of the downhill glide on the wide-open pavement over the crest.
Starting about 8:30 a.m., we covered the 23 miles to Vienna, Va., in less than two hours, upping our average speed of about nine on gravel to 12 on pavement.
I chose Vienna for a stop because I saw a Whole Foods from the trail. Provisions were running low and I wanted to stock up. “The next two nights are in D.C., and who knows what they have to eat there?” my food anxiety psyche asked. We soon had a basket brimming with 20 pounds of cheese, chips and drink.
We also had a mid-morning snack.
For hers, Sabra picked out an apple and a bottle of juice. I headed to the olive bar where I filled an eight-ounce cup with Greek olives and a hot pepper relish featuring Serrano peppers. Next, at the bakery I purchased a saucer-sized ciabatta roll and had it sliced in half. On the way out I stopped at the cafeteria and found a bottle of sriracha (rooster) sauce. I got the Italian bread out, gave each side a good squirt of Thai sauce, and plopped on the Greek olives/Mexican peppers medley.
It was pure fusion heaven, the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life.
Not even hungry, I devoured it on the spot and spent the rest of the day tasting it again and again as we made our way to the capitol. The words “made our way” in the previous sentence are significant as somehow we lost the trail a few miles past Vienna, and had to navigate the next 10 miles on the hilly, busy streets of Arlington.
At some point I prayed that the best sandwich of my life also didn’t become the last.