View From the Great Falls Overlook at Great Falls National Park in McLean, VA

Well, I didn’t ride my bike today, but I got a ride in a car to Great Falls National Park where I walked and walked and saw the Potomoc make its way from the Piedmont Plateau to the Atlantic Coastal Plane. Turns out that’s a big jump, especially after the Ice Age made the river levels drop 300 feet. Continue reading

View Down the River From the Bridge at the Appalachian Trail Crossing at Harper’s Ferry


The first few days of the week were rained out, and the week has ended on vacation with E., who doesn’t ride a bike, so I haven’t gotten to pedal in forever.but I have gotten to walk, which I did today, all over Antietam National Battlefield and Harper’s Ferry, where I snapped this picture. Oh, it was a beautiful day, and I learned the heck out of it. I’m not on my bike, but I’m nursing the curiosity I’ve been cultivating from that seat. Yep, life is better since I started riding, and I can’t wait to get back on the Surly and spiiiin. Can’t. Wait.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Meeting at the Mound at Camden Yards


I woke up early even though I didn’t have to, because I can’t help it, so why not drive to DC early, sneak in a National Park visit before my lunch date with J. and E.? Piscataway Park was lovely, but driving into DC wasn’t. Why people ever drive is beyond me–it just makes me anxious, and there’s no reason I should bother learning to deal with that anxiety. Take the bus–lesson learned. As I drove back into Baltimore, the lights were already on at Camden Yards, reminding me there was a game tonight. Driving makes me want to die, but a bike ride and a lazy evening watching baseball? Yes, please. I rode down here, locked up to a rack, bought a ten dollar ticket and a seven dollar beer, and settled in to watch my new team take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a meaningless game, for us, at least. That doesn’t mean I didn’t thoroughly enjoy watching us throttle them with five runs in the first, and this meeting at the mound didn’t seem to help. But we are only in the third, and this is baseball and we’ve got to get 16 more outs, so I best get another beer and some nachos. And then I can bike home instead of waiting to get out of the parking lot. Thank goodness.

The Star-Spangled Banner On Screen at Ft. McHenry National Monument and Shrine


I had nothing to do on this lovely day in Baltimore, so I spent my morning checking out the Walters Art Museum–beautiful–and doing a quick tour of the Pratt Libraray main branch–I had to ask at the desk if it was really the public library, it was so nice (it is, and according to E., everybody loves that library). K. then picked me up, showed me the Peabody Library, which totally looks like Hogwarts, and then to lunch. And then it was time to take a bike ride. I tossed my National Parks passport in my bag and rode downhill to Fort McHenry, home of the star-spangled banner. That was a lot of downhill riding, and what goes down must go up. Pedal, pedal, pedal, would I be able to make it back up? But first, a tour of my first Mid-Atlantic NPS site for my first Mid-Atlantic NPS passport cancellation stamp. This site was crazy, which I should have guessed, what with it being called a national shrine. I have been to a lot of parks and museums that represent America to itself, but nothing quite as full-on patriotic. I swear, the flag threw up all over that place. I pushed through the crowds–so many people!–and read all about the War of 1812 with barely a mention of the Battle of Orleans; Chalmette National Battlefield is making a very different argument about the meaning of the war, but I digress. Then the movie started. You really just have to see it, watch the flashes from above signifying bombs bursting in air, the flags-in-light disco-balling at our feet, and closing with this giant flag and the swelling tones of our National Anthem. And then the screen slowly rose, revealing a bank of windows, and were gazing upon the Fort itself and Our Flag proudly waving, as it has done since that fated night. And then I remembered to stand up and headed out, did a tour of the Fort itself, and then it started raining. And it was time to ride home, in the rain, uphill. It was a slow slog, but it felt so, so good. God, I can’t wait to have my bike here.

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park at Decatur and St. Louis

I have been spending my free time slowly working my way through Ken Burns’s documentary project on our national parks, and I’ve been feeling a ridiculously strong urge to go enjoy our natural heritage. Mostly I’m missing mountains, though. I grew up in mountains and there’s just no substitute. But I’m 638 miles from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (yes, I’ve been doing a lot of googleymapping, wishing I were rich in time and money), and those don’t really count as mountains anyway–not when you know about the Owyhees, the Rockies, the Sierra Nevadas, the Tetons. Continue reading

Davis Bayou in the Gulf Islands National Seashore

It’s still the holidays, I think, so today I tossed the Surly in the back of my car, grabbed my National Parks Passport, and headed to Mississippi to get a cancellation stamp from Davis Bayou, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The gulf shoreline along scenic highway 90 looks a lot different than it did this time last year. It’s still eerily quiet and relatively empty, but now there are roving bands of workers in matching t-shirts and reflective vests carrying clear trash bags, raking through the sand, hunting for oil. Continue reading