The Washington & Old Dominion trail: A biking gem in Northern Virginia

What a crazy few weeks.  Work has been nuts, my son is back from college, new phones and a new car bought, and I’ve entered the final stretch of weekend classes in a certificate course.

The net result – not enough training, and not enough blogging, either.  I’ve worked out twice in the last two weeks, but I got back on track (actually…back on trail) Friday.

One of my favorite things to do when I can’t run is get on the bike and hit the trails.  Being more of a road bike guy, gravel and mud don’t really work for me.  I’ll do it for fun, but if the ride is about a workout, I’m on a road bike.

Fortunately for me, there’s a great paved trail not too far from me that stretches some 45 miles in its entirety.  The Washington and Old Dominion trail (technically the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park) is built on the bed of the railroad of the same name, which closed in the late 60s.  I’ve never ridden it from end to end, but I’ll get around to it one day.

The only down side to using the W&OD is that I have to load up the bike, and drive about 15 minutes to get there.  That’s because there isn’t a route to get there that doesn’t deal with the DC area’s insane drivers.  A workout isn’t worth getting killed over, after all!

W&OD map

The W&OD itself is a two-lane trial stretching from Shirlington, VA to Purcellville, VA.  It passes through heavily populated areas, suburbs, and more rural areas as you move westward.  Lots of nice towns, good food and bike-friendly things to do along the way.

Green LizardI typically start at the 10-mile marker near Vienna.  About 10 miles to the west is the Green Lizard bike shop in Herndon.  That’s my shortest ride – there and back.  I love to stop there, catch my breath and look at bike stuff.  The staff there is very knowledgeable and helpful.  They’ve got a full-service repair shop in there, if you’re in need.  Additionally, they have a coffee shop inside that makes smoothies – perfect on a hot day!

Mediterranean BreezeIf I’m not in a rush, or if I’m riding with the wife on a casual ride, we’ll stop in at Mediterranean Breeze, also in Herndon.  It’s just a block from the Green Lizard.  They do a little bit of everything on the menu, and everything we’ve had is pretty good (my personal favorite is the New Orleans jambalaya).  Good prices, too.  They also do a Sunday brunch, if that’s your kind of thing.

Carolina BrothersIf I’m on my own on a longer ride, I’ll go about 35 miles, and visit Carolina Brothers Pit BBQ (mile marker 27.5) in Ashburn as my midway point.  I’ve been there probably a half dozen times, and each time, the food’s been great – and cheap.  Of course, the down side is that the ride back ALWAYS takes longer than the ride there.  A belly full of BBQ will do that!

With all that said, today’s ride was short – 10 out and back, for 20 miles total.  It was my first ride on the bike this year, and it felt great to get out.  I pushed the pace on the way out, and focused a little more on form on the way back.  I deliberately didn’t time the ride, so as not to be competing with the clock.

Since it was a Friday afternoon, the trail wasn’t super-crowded, which is often the case on the weekends.  All in all, it was a great ride!

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