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DC Vasa Ride Report

March 6, 2012

I had been fussing the night before with last-minute bike “problems.” Why are these brakes sticky? Why aren’t my brake levers tighter? Is this the start of a tear in my new tire? I had ridden less than 40 miles on my Bridgestone since I rebuilt it and was now seriously doubting my mechanical skills. I briefly entertained the alternatives. No, I was going to do this, the full 60 miles all on my trusty Bridgestone.

My day started at 6:45 AM. As I picked up Rock Creek trail, the temperature was pleasant enough for so early in the morning. If the sun would ever make an appearance today, it would be a great day for a ride. The trail was empty of other bikers and runners and I loved it. Soon another cyclist entered the trail. I fell in behind her and admired her bicycle, a green VeloOrange Polyvalent with hammered metal fenders. I had an idea who this might be. However, I’m sure there are lots of people sporting YAKKAY plaid helmets on VO bikes fitted with pink handlebar tape in DC who were going to the VASA ride. Right? Ultimately, I forwent the stalker impulse (“hey! I follow you on twitter and read your blog sometimes!!!”) and did the more modest thing of just complementing her bike.

Vasa Registration

Since regsitration was very quick and efficent (thanks to the WABA volunteers), I still had 20 minutes to waste before the start. I made my way through the rows of bicycle, marveling at the streamlined carbon ones, admiring the classic design of the Waterfords, and wondering how the guy with the hardtail two sizes to small would manage. Overall it was obvious that these machines were loved and I was in good company.


At exactly 8 AM the flag was waved and we were off. Clack, Clack, Clack, Clack… The riders were mounting their cleats into their peddles. Was I out of my league here? I would find out in a few hours. My goals were to make it the full sixty without getting too lost and avoid a major mechanical failure.


At about 7 miles in, we passed Glen Echo Park, a deserted looking amusement park from the 50s. There was a rusted trolley car blocking the entrance. I decided that if the zombie apocalypse ever came this fitting place would be the ideal location to make a last stand. We rode on.

Pit stop

At some point either just prior to or after the first pit stop we passed a couple of vultures choking down on a freshly killed deer. I won’t get into the gory details but Glen Echo Park was looking like a pretty good place to spend the night about now.

Going up

I’m not sure when the first hills began. They started innocently enough for sure but with each climb, the next got longer and steeper. It was on one of these hills that my chain decided it wasn’t going to seat itself properly in the cog. It wasn’t the major mechanical issue I was dreading but I did have to stop halfway up a climb to knock it into place. The riders I was using as my guide continued on out of sight.

See you soon...

I powered through the rest of the climb to find the same group hanging out on the side of the road with their own bike trouble. One of them had got a flat. I slowed and offered my assistance. He was about to wave me on but then spotted my large frame pump. It would be much more efficient than the weight conscious mini-pump they were carrying. We all have specific purposes to fulfill in this bike world, we joked. Glad to be of service.

Another breather

Soon after the flat was fixed, we climbed some more hills (sensing a theme here) and made it to the second rest stop. I chatted with some of the group from the tire episode including Mary Lauren who owned her own Bridgestone 400 (but sadly it wasn’t on the road today). It was great to find another person so enthusiastic with this classic bike.

Getting to know folks

Nice Pants!

Somewhere around mile 40 the riders thinned out. I was alone for long stretches at a time. I was now using my cue sheet for directions for the first time all day. After cutting onto the CCT, the ride had me connect to Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park – ah familiar territory, I was almost done. Except nobody told me about Brandywine Street. Where the hell did this hill come from?! DC did not have any inclines this steep for this long. Thankful for the granny gear I installed a month before, I crawled my way up this never-ending hell mountain.

Finish line. the soup is where?

I rolled back to the House of Sweden at 1:15 PM. The ride was complete and so was the post race celebration. Greeting me was one guy who was putting away bike racks. When they say blueberry soup served until 1 they weren’t kidding.

Not a bad day

So yes, no blueberry soup at the finish line. But, I did savor a pretty awesome burger and greasy fries consolation prize afterwards. An Advil for dessert followed by a long nap was a great way to end a terrific ride.

Post-ride Five Guys (consolation prize)

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate permalink
    March 6, 2012 4:23 pm

    Oh! That was you on the Rock Creek trail with me! Hello again 🙂

  2. March 6, 2012 10:23 pm

    Sorry to hear you missed out on the soup. It was tasty and warm.

    Nice report though.

    It seems like an awful lot of people on the full Vasa ride got lost and took the CCT back to the embassy so you get points for navigation and surviving Mount Brandywine.

  3. John permalink
    March 7, 2012 9:57 am

    Thanks for sharing the story and photos. This was my first long ride – which I was surprised I did in four hours – I was also surprised that I could walk (and sit!) when it was all done. And yes, Brandywine was a character-builder, but the long downhill coast on the other side of American University was a nice reward.

    I hope you will get the soup next year – it was indeed yummy and fortified me because I still had 5 miles to ride home.

    Keep Cranking!!

    • March 7, 2012 10:09 am

      Thanks John, congrats to you too.

      In retrospect, I probably doomed my chances of soup by lingering too long and too many times at pit stops. But, the conversations seemed like a fair trade off.

  4. March 7, 2012 12:20 pm

    Good job on your report! We must have been at the turnaround at the same time, since I recognize lots of the people in your photo from when I was there.

    I was one of the many who turned the wrong way on the CTC and so got short-cutted on the length of the ride. That was disappointing, but I was glad to get the soup, now that I learn they closed up right at 1:00. Wish it had either been better marked or better cued. Oh well, there’s always the maybe-next-year thought.

    I was visiting DC from out-of-town (grew up there during the period of Glen Echo’s height, just to date me) and it was my first group ride. Since I usually ride solo, I thought it was a hoot to have so many people around. My report isn’t as long as yours, but is up on my site.

    Happy pedaling!

    • March 7, 2012 12:34 pm

      Thanks for the link to your report. I think I remember you! When passing glen echo there was someone just behind me in our group who I overheard commenting about going to the park when she was young. I had no idea that place existed.


  1. Vasa 2012: Stories and Links « Bicycle Bug's Blog

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