Sunday, September 20, 2009

Burke Lake Ride

Yesterday, my forced lethargy was lifted and steroid pack empty. Finally, I got the green light to get back in the saddle - literally. I ride an older model Trek Navigator 100 comfort bike. Although I bought the bike only six years ago, Trek has stopped producing this model. Bikes, like iPods, age rapidly. (My '04 iPod Mini, for example, is as thick as a turkey club sandwich.) My friend and her 12-year old daughter joined me on a 13-mile loop in south central Fairfax County, Virginia. When I mapped out the ride, I was looking for was a moderately easy, but interesting and varied route, and I think the one I pieced together fit the bill. And there were a couple of added bonuses that I hadn't considered. First, we never had to ride on the road, and second, every busy intersection had walk signals. The route offered a variety of riding surfaces, manageable rolling hills, and great scenery.

The first mile and half, heading south on Burke Centre Parkway toward Lee Chapel Road, was tedious. The bike path was in good condition, but we had to cross a couple of busy intersections. The most dangerous point, however, was passing the 7-Eleven. The Slurpee and Big Gulp crowd zooms in and out of the small parking lot with a sugar-induced abandon. But these minor aggravations were worth it. Heading south on Lee Chapel is largely downhill on a fairly new and wide bike path. The trees that separate backyards from the road offer intermittent shade.

At the Fairfax County Parkway we went left and headed to the
South Run Rec Center, which is technically located in Springfield, but is an easy ride from Burke and Fairfax Station. Behind the rec center is one end of a trail that connects the rec center with Burke Lake Park, below.

The connecting trail - wide, smooth, and safely tucked away in sylvan bliss - was the perfect ride. It carved its way through woods and open grassy spaces dotted with wild flowers.

Even the cleared swath that was bisected by a column of power lines vibrated with vivid greens and yellows, which my camera didn't capture, but you can trust me on this.

Photo credit to my friend, Lisa Connors, who took the picture on the left.

Our path had only one steep incline, and as we neared Burke Lake Park, we could see homes - really fancy ones - on our left and right.

We approached the lake at its south side and rode on top of the dam. The ride around the lake is 4.6 miles. We didn't ride the loop because my young companion, Meghan, was uncomfortable on her too-small bike and Lisa's tires were a little thin for the lumpy and sharp terrain of the path. Plus, it was a gorgeous Saturday, and the path was crowded with walkers, dogs, baby strollers, dogs, and even more dogs, and I ran into another friend and talked for too long.

Instead, we headed up the driveway to Ox Road (Route 123). Since the boom of new housing that has sprung up in the Lorton area and the conversion of the Lorton Correctional Facility to an artists' colony, Ox Road has been widened and graced with a generous bike path. We followed Ox Road north, tackled a couple of medium hills, and then headed south on the Fairfax County Parkway and back home to Burke (with a detour to Giant and Starbucks). Both Ox Road and the parkway are noisy, but they are handy and safe connectors for cyclists.

From Ox Road, more ambitious cyclists could easily follow 123 north and go left onto Clifton road to Clifton, or follow 123 south to Lorton or Occoquan. I'm working on building my ambition (and my quadriceps), so watch for future posts when I almost become one of "them."

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