Cumulative distance: 948.78 miles
We didn’t pack our bicycles in bags last night because Matthew wanted to ride to George Washington’s farm at Mount Vernon today, it’s about 15 miles east of Washington DC. He’d also found a vegan bakery, about a mile-and-a-half from our hotel: Sticky Fingers in Columbia Heights … so we rode over there for breakfast. Wonderful to have so much choice. And it was delicious, really making the point that vegan food isn’t boring or in any way sub-standard. It’d be nice if it was available more widely!
We headed to Mount Vernon – first taking our bicycles on to the metro to Huntingdon, then joining a beautiful and well-used bicycle path alongside the Potomac River for about ten miles to George Washington’s estate.
Mount Vernon is made up of several gardens and outbuildings as well as the main house. A landing stage, the Washington’s tomb and a slaves’ cemetery. It was boiling hot – it felt like our hottest day so far and I have to say that I found the whole place a little underwhelming and somewhat dispiriting. At the entrance there was a gallery of photographs of some rather unsavoury visitors: Churchill, De Gaulle, Hussein of Jordan, the Reagans, various Bushes, lots of hideous royals including the Queen, Margaret, Charles, Queen Mother, Akihito of Japan, etc. (too ironic that they visited the house of a founder of a republic). Then I thought that the whole place had very odd air about it – strangely uninformative, uncritical and upbeat. It was disturbing to find that it was overwhelmingly being visited by white, overweight people. In the museum there was only one black person in the room – and he was the security guard. The place seriously needs to implement a diversity strategy! The shop had a very scary children’s book homage to ‘the remarkable’ Ronald Reagan! I tried to hide them behind some other books.
We cycled all the way back to Washington and that perked me up considerably – the path ran up the Potomac, often in the shade of trees, so it was pleasant and cool. There were some incredible smells: pine and cedar and maple syrup with mingled with the smells from the sea – all intoxicating. I’d no idea that the Potomac was do big – its tidal section and estuary are huge. Occasionally the path crossed little creeks or inlets on wooden cycleways, wide and close to the water, surrounding some were tall bulrushes and other water plants. As we neared Washington DC the route passed through a pretty old town – Alexandria, with some old shops and brick-paved roads – quite touristy, but not in an unpleasant way.
Then on past the regional airport – the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as it’s known. I do quite like airports and here there was some excellent vantage points from the cycleway to watch planes taking off and landing … in fact I spent as much time as I thought I could get away with there. However, I do wonder who came up with the absolutely stupid idea of naming the airport after Reagan. I also struggle to understand how enough people to make it happen could possibly have agreed? The man was a monster – his callous indifferent failure to do anything meaningful for people with HIV and Aids should be sufficient to condemn him forever – and that’s before mentioning all the illegal covert operations.
Back in Washington we stopped again at the Lincoln Memorial and people-watched for a while.
We got back to the hotel, showered and changed and then it was time to hit the shops. Matthew wanted to go to a trendy neighbourhood called Georgetown – something to do with barrels and crates, (not that we need either of those items). The area was busy – and we came across a section of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, there was a cycle path from Cumberland that would have followed that – but it wasn’t going to be suitable for cycling on. We called on at a lovely market: Dean and Deluca – we bought some nice treats there.
We took some pictures at the canal had a Chinese meal and back to the hotel to spend the rest of the evening dismantling out bicycles and packing them away for the flight home :(