The Washington and Old Dominion Trail

The beginning: trailhead in Shirlington

The bike ride on the W & OD Trail was everything I had hoped it would be.  The trail stretches 45 miles, from Arlington, Virginia out to Purcellville, where I attended middle and high school.

The end!

I took a Lyft in the morning rush hour from Fairfax to the trailhead, with my friend’s folding bike in the trunk.  At the trailhead, I met up with the cousin of my first-grade best friend, Lisa, who put my suitcase into his trunk and ferried it to Tyson’s Corner during his morning commute to work, then handed it off to Lisa’s husband, who also works in Tyson’s and who lives in Purcellville.  I was so grateful to the three of them for helping me in this creative way to bike without a trailer, and without generating any additional vehicle miles to do so!

Trees, sky, and kudzu in Paeonian Springs

The trail was as beautiful as I had hoped.  After a couple of hours, I stopped for a rest in a lovely park in Vienna, Virginia, and then had lunch at the Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant.  Afterward I pressed on for about five more hours, under warm but rarely too hot sunshine.  The trail took me across a number of creeks and bridges.  It also took me across an overpass of Route 7, my most familiar childhood highway.  I cannot count the number of times I crossed that overpass, drove under it, or exited the freeway directly before it, over the years, but always in a car. Never had I experienced that place on a bike, until two days ago.  It felt amazing to do so.

Nottoway Park, Vienna
Kale and burdock with tofu and chickpeas
Route 7 overpass

On the way I also discovered a new-to-me snake (almost hit it!), a diminutive and all-green grass snake, who was sunning itself on the pavement of the trail.  I doubled back to try to photograph it, but it had, predictably, already squiggled off the path after its near-death experience.

Shortly thereafter, I rode past a strangely abandoned pair of velvety rose-colored couches and frilly pillows, in a gravel pull-out lot with shattered glass in front of them.  I decided they were bizarre enough to require a glamour-shot selfie, so I turned back to take one.

Toward the end of the trail, I found a low-tech safety mirror at a blind curve, and took a surreal selfie there as well.

Surreal safety mirror at a blind curve near an underpass in Leesburg

Later, after passing my high school and running late to meet my parents, a man in a red, white, and green spandex cycling jersey with the word “Italia” emblazoned upon it—whom I had seen earlier on the trail, traveling the other direction—passed by me, and called out, “Your parents are waiting for you at the end of the trail!”  I was quite surprised—how did he know it was me?—but cheerfully called back, “thank you!” as he receded into the distance.  Sure enough, a few minutes later I hit the end of my journey, and found my parents reading a placard that described the history of the trail.

Made it!!

We went out for a delicious Thai dinner at a local place I found on HappyCow, and then went back to the homestead, where I soon collapsed into bed.

I’m so glad I finally experienced that trail.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *