A suburban adventure walk along the river

A while back I decided to focus my blog a bit more after reading some general advice on topicality, and also a comment from a friend about the esoteric topics I’d been covering. A glance at the variety of Categories confirms these ideas, so ever since then I’ve been writing about biking and things closely related to it. Today I’m going to bend that rule a bit — I WAS getting some exercise, I saw several bicycles, and I even wished I were riding my bicycle, but I was actually walking.

I lived in the Northern Virginia area for 7-1/2 years, 10 if you count the time I was attending college at Virginia Tech and still keeping a bedroom at my mom’s place in Alexandria. I rode my bicycle quite a lot around the area in the period from late 1997 to late 2000, and I figured I knew my way around the trails in Alexandria and Arlington.

My plan was simple — to meet up with Schuyler and Heidi in Ballston and to go from there to get some dinner. My method was also simple — to walk as much of the way from my hotel, the Crowne Plaza near National Airport, to Ballston Commons as time would allow, while also enjoying the walk. Browsing around on Google Maps, I realized it was nearly a straight shot up Glebe Road, but I also realized it wouldn’t be such an enjoyable walk, unless you like looking at convenience stores and cars stuck in traffic. I saw I could get nearly the same walking distance by following the river to Rosslyn and then taking Metro to Ballston Commons.

It wasn’t nearly as simple as I imagined. My GPS track shows my approximate route, though with all the tall buildings and overpasses, the GPS didn’t perform as well as it does on the rural roads here in Georgia. My first problem proved to be finding the bike path. The one nearest the water comes all the way up from Mount Vernon, but once you get north of the old Main Terminal at National Airport, there’s no way to cross the railroad tracks and the George Washington Parkway to get to it! The next opportunity, at least without undue risk to life and limb, is a zebra crossing just south of Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove, near the marina to the northeast of the Pentagon.

I didn’t see that level crossing from the grove itself, and neither of the joggers I asked knew about it, either. I was running out of time and getting ready to head back to the Pentagon to metro the rest of the way, but fortunately one of the joggers directed me to a path that led from Pentagon North Parking to Memorial Bridge. Aside from a short detour towards the water once I reached the bridge but decided not to actually cross it on foot due to the time, I was able to walk from there to Rosslyn along a route that wasn’t exactly direct, but at least it was a bike path. It was quite frustating to be able to see the path I wanted across the train tracks or a highway, but be unable to figure out how to get to it!

It was an enjoyable walk in the end, but now I wish I’d started earlier and gone over the river to see the Cherry Blossoms, which I heard were at 70 or 80% that day.

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