Day 148 • July 27, 2012 • Vienna, VA to Rockville, MD • 49 miles
Seth escorted us on our way today, taking his usual morning commute to DC. It’s a pretty sweet ride but we were thankful we had Seth leading the way or we might still be trying to negotiate all the twists and turns. Between the Metro, the cycling, and the walking we found DC to be a pretty friendly place; the cleanest and mellowest big city we’d encountered. We said goodbye to Seth at the Capitol Mall and decided to do a little more sightseeing on our way out of town. We hadn’t yet visited the capitol building. Of course we were fully loaded at this point and when we tried to park at the visitor center so we could get Zoe’s passport stamped we were turned away by security. The trikes were no problem but we couldn’t leave any bags on them for fear that they might be hiding bombs or something. The security guards were very nice though and agreed to watch the trikes and Zoe while I quickly ran in for the stamp.
Sightseeing complete, we stopped for lunch #1 at Subway. As much as I hate spending money on national chain restaurants, this one has really saved our diets throughout the trip. They’re as common as McDonalds these days and much more likely to be in the really small towns. The food is reasonably healthy, fresh, consistent, fast, and cheap. I may never eat there again after this trip but when the alternatives are greasy fast food, greasy diners, greasy convenience stores, and our own greasy slop that we’d been carrying around for weeks because we can’t stand the sight of it, Subway looks pretty good.
After the National Mall we were on the Rock Creek multi-use path much of the day. It meandered along Rock Creek, past the back side of the National Zoo and through the vast Rock Creek Park. As usual for a trail like this the signage was inconsistent and frustrating (I had choicer words at the time) and we spent a lot of time trying to stay on the trail. The GPS provided limited help because the trails we were on either weren’t shown or weren’t labeled so it was difficult to make the right choice at intersections with other trails. The Windows Phone uses the same Navteq/Nokia map data so wasn’t much better, but did have the advantage of showing satellite imagery which would sometimes reveal where trails were heading. It usually worked to pick the trail closest to Rock Creek.
At one point near Rockville we got to a particularly perplexing five-way intersection. Making the wrong choice meant a lot of wasted time and perhaps some night riding so I was slowly figuring it out with the tools at hand. A local biker rode up and offered help. Even he wasn’t exactly sure which trail we were on or which way we should go, so he popped out his iPhone and brought up the Google map, zooming in to all of the trails in question, nicely labeled. Instantly we had our answer. In the era of iPhone/Android, this is only the second time I’ve felt the iPhone had a superior experience to my Windows phone. The first was when my niece Courtney whipped out hers and immediately began streaming the content on which my phone was stuttering, probably reflecting my underpowered Samsung Focus hardware. For years, Navteq’s lack of map detail for trails has been a problem for me and one over which I’ve considered dumping both Windows and Garmin.
We couldn’t figure out any camping so wound up staying at the Best Western in Rockville.