Newsletter: questionable schemes by moonlight

Happy Friday,

Back in the summer I had what seemed like a fun idea: hop on the MARC Brunswick line with some friends after work, get off in Boyds or Barnesville, and ride on quiet roads, excellent MoCo singletrack, and the C&O towpath back home to DC. The plan was to do it on the summer solstice to get the most out of the longest day of the year. Then it rained for the entire week—the trails were muddy and it was cloudy and dark, so we decided to skip it. This fall I thought, “why don’t we do the same ride, but on the winter solstice?” It would be a cold and dark adventure, but still an adventure. 

And so, last night, seven of us stood in the tiny parking lot of Barnesville station watching the 893 train recede into the distance and said “WELP, we’re in it now.”  We shared a handful of peanut butter pretzels, sorted out our warm clothing layering strategies, and pedaled off into the cold, quiet dark. 

Let me tell you, it was transcendent. The roads were empty, the moon was bright, and the deer were leaping in picturesque silhouette through the fields of the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve. When you’re riding somewhere without streetlights, the darkness around you feels vast. Not scary, just big. You become intensely aware of the edges of your headlight beam—a tiny pool of certainty in a visual field filled mostly with dim hints of shapes.

And the quiet was profound. The wind was calm, and in the 35ish miles between Barnesville and Georgetown, we encountered maybe a dozen cars, and one other person on a bike. The soundscape around us shrank down to the hum of our tires. It’s a bit startling, to be honest, to suddenly be able to hear yourself think. 

We got back into the city and branched off for home. I got off my bike feeling like I’d taken a weeklong vacation to space—separated from the noise and stimuli of my routine by an expanse of quiet darkness. And I can’t remember ever being happier to find a slice of leftover pizza in the fridge at 11:45pm.

This is all to say that there’s nothing quite so rewarding as scheming up a hare-brained bike adventure with your friends and making it happen. If you’re a New Year’s Resolution kind of person, consider adding “questionable biking adventure with friends” to your list. Go bike camping for the first time, or explore some mountain bike trails, or just strand yourself at a remote train station and find your way back home. 

If you’re interested, our route is here and the MARC schedules are here

Things to do this week:

  • It’s the last week of the year, and we’ve got about $100,000 left to raise before midnight on the 31st (ideally before so that Anna, our development director, can relax a bit). If you’ve already made a donation, thank you. Your support means the world to us. If you haven’t yet, and you can, consider making a year end gift. [edit: we did it! Thank you!]

A Fun Route Idea For the Weekend

Alas, the MARC Brunswick Line doesn’t run on the weekend. Instead, hop on the Red line to Shady Grove and ride back into town on the Rock Creek Trail. Here’s my favorite version of that route with a couple of fun little side quests.