Nov 17, 201012:38 PMResident Tourist
Cycling the Hill
Bikes: gleaming in a row, for rent in a new sleek space right outside Union Station. What a good way to cover the spaces in-between tourist sites: that long walk from the train to the Capitol is collapsed into a pleasant few minutes under a canopy of trees when you’re pedaling through the park.
My friend Laura and I geared up at the Bike and Roll rental shop and were sent on our way by the earnest young men running the stand. Included in our fee were helmets, locks and handlebar pouches that held our cameras while we meandered across the Hill on rented wheels.
You can ride on the sidewalks in DC; a nuisance for pedestrians I’m sure, but we were too timid to brave the traffic on anything but side streets. A bike lane runs assertively right in the center of Pennsylvania Avenue, but in spite of the old maxim that doing something you haven’t tried for years is “just like riding a bike,” I was too tentative and wobbly on mine to surge down that mid-lane bike route. It was enough of a challenge for me to manage the places where sidewalks buckled over tree roots and to navigate the sharp turns you need to make once you pedal up the ramps from street to curb when you’ve got the “walk” light.
Careful to avoid bicycling over the dark-suited Senatorial types, we weaved along the walkways aiming for the Capitol and the Supreme Court, just across from it. I’ve seen these buildings hundreds of times, but the grandeur never diminishes. I was like a tourist, enthusiastically snapping too many pictures and pointing out architectural details, reading the words “Equal Justice Under Law” in a sort of soft-focus, idealistic reverie.
We first used our handy bike locks at the Library of Congress. Inside, the photo taking really got out of hand. Everywhere you look, richly saturated, colorful beauty: every view ornate, every wall and ceiling a deep pastel hue. You will love the view from the balcony on the third floor looking over the vast reader’s room.
A few minutes of riding got us to Eastern Market. We strolled down the brightly lit promenade, ogling olives and platters of clams.
Crab cakes, with a side of grilled green beans and green-fried tomatoes from Market Lunch, fueled us for the leisurely ride back through the drizzle to the friendly fellows at the bike shop.