Today saw several firsts: first crash (very minor), first flat tire (pain that led to a nice encounter), and first night riding. The flat tire led to the encounter which led to the need for night riding. The fact that I started the day rather late also contributed.
I left my sister's house about 10 AM and headed down the 4 Mile Run bike path. After I negotiated the, rather tricky, bit where that bike path crosses I-395, I fell. I was riding in the street rather than on the sidewalk (where the bike path is at that point) because a pedestrian was using the sidewalk and it was narrow because we were on a bridge. When I tried to get back on the path, I simply misjudged the sharp turn needed - the car right on my rear wheel might have skewed my judgement a bit - and my rear wheel hit the curb instead of the access. Down I went, right in front of the, rather pretty, pedestrian. I wasn't hurt and, other than a little scuffing on my pannier rain covers, neither was the bike. I picked myself up, checked out the bike, dusted my fanny off and continued on the bike path. The pretty pedestrian was very solicitous of my health and I was a bit embarrassed.
I rode for 25 miles on bike paths today. It was pleasant, but rather slow riding. Near the end of the paths, I stopped to use the toilet in Rock Creek Park (the paths were 4 Mile Run, Potomac, and Rock Creek). A group of elementary school kids was playing in and near the shelter where I stopped. I was taking a break before going on when their teachers - the group was from a D.C. school near Rock Creek - invited me to join them for lunch. This group of kids had perfect attendance this year and the picnic was their reward. It was a real racial mixed group with just about everything but WASPs. Nice kids and nice teachers!
After leaving the bike path I rode on DC and Maryland streets trying to follow the AC route. As usual, I got off route a bit, but by asking for help and actually using the detail map AC provides of this area, I figured out how to get back on. I was at the circle at the end of Connecticut street when I got things figured out - not a good place to bicycle - and my rear tire went flat. I pulled the LARGE safety pin out of the tire, spun the tire and pumped it up hoping the sealant would seal the hole, but it didn't. No more Nashbar sealant for me, back to Slime.
I put the bike on its side in the shade near the traffic circle and was starting to unpack stuff in preparation for changing the tube when a very nice lady asked if I needed any help. She lives just a few block from where I flatted, in house near the Chevy Chase Country Club. She sells real estate in the Chevy Chase Area and her spouse is retired from the FTC where he wrote bicycle regulations! He is also a bicyclist. Betty took me and my bike back to their house where I replaced the tube, had a second free lunch, and had really nice visit with Betty and John. I'm afraid that visit was a bit long and that did lead to my riding till 9:45 (sundown was about 8:30) to find a motel. It was worth it. You do meet the nicest people while bicycle touring!
After leaving Betty and John, I rode Wisconsin Ave to Bradley Blvd which is on the AC route. I stopped at a bicycle shop just off Bradley on Arlington to get a new tube. The one I got is presta instead of schrader and one size too large, but it was all they had and it will do. I followed the AC route on out to Shady Grove Rd and Muncaster Rd only to find myself riding in a four to six lane traffic jam for the next ten miles. Not fun and, as in Dale City south of DC, the result of the explosive growth of 'suburbia' in this area. Adventure Cycling should update it routes in these area. They are not safe routes anymore!
When I finally got through the traffic jams near Brookeville, I found that I had a new problem. It was getting late and it was a long way to the next place on the route that had motels. When I got to Glenelg, I bought some food, a big cup of coffee and a Maryland map. Consulting the map convinced me that I should leave the AC route and use a more direct route to Reisterstown. I rode Maryland 32, planning cut over to Reisterstown on 91. 32 is really good bicycling with excellent shoulders most of the time and at least rideable shoulders 98% of the time. When it was getting dark I stopped twice to ask for motel suggestions and, both times, was told not to ride into Reisterstown because "It was too dangerous" and instead to ride on to Westminister. I took the advice and, other than a few silly kids and some slightly unpleasant moments riding at night on the heavily traveled MA 140 where the motels in Westminister are located, it wasn't a bad ride. I rode 32 to 97 to 140.
Tomorrow I think I'll head north and east on my own routes, possibly rejoining the AC route somewhere in Pennsylvania. I think I can do a better job of routing on my own if I stay away from major cities. My routes will also be more direct than the AC routes and easier (for me!) to follow. I least I hope they will be...