Centreville to Leesburg: streams, tunnels, critters, petals…


What a ride yesterday! It ended up being about 27 miles, much of it on the Washington & Old Dominion (W & OD) rail-trail. I had biked the full 45 miles of this trail in September of 2019, on a folding bike loaned to me by Michelle, who I stayed with in Centreville. (The following month, I got my Brompton!)

This time, I did a few miles of the trail on my way to Centreville from DC, and then I did about 15 miles of it again yesterday, from Herndon to Leesburg, where my parents picked me up to take me back to Waterford.

At first, leaving Centreville, I once again enjoyed the seemingly northern-Virginia-specific amenity of tar-paved sidewalks next to major roads. They felt safer than riding in the road, but were also wider than conventional sidewalks, and no concrete seams!

Shortly after I departed Michelle’s place, though, I realized I had not refilled my hydration pack before I left. I noticed a park area on the map coming up, and decided to make a detour from my Google maps route to see if I could find a drinking fountain or tap to refill it.

I did not find such—it turned out to be more of a creekside-path type of park—but the detour took me at least half an hour. It was rather scenic, but the path was full of roots poking up through the tar in spots, and at one point, I encountered a creek-forded area of the path, with water running across it.

This gave me pause, since I like to keep the bottom of the trailer as dry and clean as possible. But I also had to laugh, because the “homestead” in Waterford where I grew up happens to have a hilly, gravel, quarter-mile driveway, with a stream running through it! During my childhood, we always used to laugh about visitors arriving in their cars, stopping at the creek and wondering what on earth to do. (Answer: just drive on through it!)

So, I figured it was pretty apropos that I would encounter such a thing on my way there. I gauged the depth, and decided that if I pedaled slowly and steadily, the trailer should be fine.

Sure enough, I made it through without incident. I remembered the rain from the previous day, and wondered if perhaps before the rain that part of the path had been dry.

It also then occurred to me to count my blessings that the water was not any deeper. There would not have been an easy way across if it had been too deep, and the trail up until that point had been rather hilly and bumpy, so backtracking would not have been much fun.

I continued on, and got back onto major roads for a while.

But then another park showed up, and I thought I would try again for a water tap.

Along this creekside path, I found a little free library! Wow. I’ve seen them all over cities, but did not expect to find one out in the woods. Pretty cool.

Before too long, I encountered something extra cool! Ahead on the path, I saw several people standing with their fancy cameras pointed up.

No one said anything, nor even acknowledged me. I stopped and carefully looked up in the trees. It took me a few moments, but I finally noticed the owl peering out of a hollow in a tall tree stump.


Everyone was fully intent. I took a couple photos with my old phone camera (if you look closely you can see the owl) but then I was kind of ready to move on. But no one would make eye contact with me to give me a signal that it was OK to proceed. I didn’t want to disturb the bird… but I did have a destination to reach.

Finally, I just slowly walked my rig forward, through the people (who still did not acknowledge me—kinda rude, I judged) and continued on. The bird stayed put.

Not fifty yards later, though, what should I see but another ford, and this time too deep to cross.


I briefly considered unpacking everything and carrying it piece by piece to the other side, but balked at this delay and hassle.

I consulted my phone’s map. Fortunately, I wouldn’t have to go too far out of the way to get to another road and avoid it.

I went through a cool tunnel—almost flooded, but thankfully not—and then found myself in the path of a beautiful cherry tree with blossoms fluttering over the path. What a beautiful time of year!

Before too long, I reached Herndon and the start of the W & OD trail. It was as picturesque as I had recalled—even an old railcar on the side of the trail—and I enjoyed the ride.

At one point the trail was closed for maintenance, but thankfully there was a gravel alternative—normally intended for pedestrians—directly parallel, for the several hundred yards of the closure. There was also a nice shaded bench there, where I stopped for a rest, and a short few steps away, a little pond area.

It was all very pleasant.

I arrived in Leesburg in the late afternoon, and my parents brought me back to the homestead.

I think I will be here, resting and regrouping and enjoying family connection, for about a week. I’ll have time to catch up on phone calls and such, which will be great.

I don’t have much in the way of “plans,” though, and therefore my blogging may be pretty sparse this week. I do plan to share some photos of the homestead at some point.

After here, my next destination will be Pittsburgh; I’ll catch the train there from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, not too far from here.

For now, though, it’s a week of childhood memories and relaxation!

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