In the Blueberry Soup: The WABA Vasa Ride

Riverside check-in for the WABA Vasa ride.
Riverside check-in for the WABA Vasa ride.

I survived the legendary Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) Vasa Ride. The ride began early Saturday morning at the House of Sweden in Georgetown. Riders got to choose from three route lengths: 15, 30, and 59 miles. Destinations and routes were not disclosed before the ride. When you checked-in, you were given a cue sheet.

Which I just glanced at, seeing that we were going to Potomac. I signed-up for the 30-mile ride and figured I’d just follow the pack. Wrong!

Starting off from Georgetown, the group of a hundred riders or so threaded its way up the Capital Crescent Trail before making a right (what? should’ve looked at the cue sheet!) at Fletcher’s Cove and heading up Reservoir Road to MacArthur Boulevard.

Once on MacArthur, the road cyclists accelerated away from me on my Specialized Sirrus. I lost contact with the peloton. Behind me were a mass of slower riders – I hope you’re not following me, because I didn’t read the cue sheet…I knew that MacArthur would eventually lead me to Potomac so I kept going.

It was a lovely morning for a ride. The route went through the leafy-green Palisades, then past the faded Glen Echo amusement park, across the single-lane bridge at Cabin John, by the Old Angler’s Inn and the entrance to Great Falls. The road was filled with cyclists, some from the WABA ride, others just out enjoying the day. Every kind of bike and every kind of rider was represented.

It had been a gradual incline up from the river before we reached the massive hill at Great Falls. The top of the hill was a natural stopping point for many cyclists, including me. The Vasa ride went from here to Potomac via Falls Road before returning by Persimmon Tree Road (I found out later).

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The first half of the WABA Vasa ride.

Cars were speeding along Falls Road. I didn’t want to deal with that. And I’m not good at following directions or being part of a group.

So, I turned around and raced down MacArthur, passing Penny Farthing Man along the way. I cannot explain how he got that ancient bike this far. I would see him again.

Penny Farthing Man at on MacArthur Boulevard in Great Falls, MD.
Penny Farthing Man on MacArthur Boulevard in Great Falls, MD.

I meandered my way back, not following the cue sheet as I hopped on the Capital Crescent Trail where it met MacArthur. From there, it was downhill all the way to Georgetown.

Back at the House of Sweden, we were invited in to the embassy for a cup of traditional warm blueberry soup. Blåbärssopp is very sweet and creamy, like a hot blueberry smoothy. One cup was enough.

Cyclists return to the House of Sweden
Cyclists return to the House of Sweden.
WABA Vasa riders enjoy blueberry soup at the House of Sweden.
WABA Vasa riders enjoy blueberry soup at the House of Sweden.
Blåbärssopp, obviously.
Blåbärssopp (blueberry soup).

By then, the 15-mile cyclists were back and the riders from the other lengths returned – it was great to see so many members of the BikeDC community, people who I’ve followed on Twitter for years. It’s more than just a community – these people are advocates for cycling in DC.

One thing I’d like to do more of this year is take portraits. I’m not the only one with this notion, for a new Facebook group has formed – People of Bike DC. I asked a fellow cyclist if I could take her photo. “Is like this People of New York?” Exactly.

Ann did the 15 mile WABA Vasa ride. Unlike me, she has her cue sheet handy.
Ann did the 15 mile WABA Vasa ride. Unlike me, she has her cue sheet handy.

It’s an iPhone pic. Next time, I’ll bring my good camera.

And, just as I was about to leave, the return of Penny Farthing Man! He is a cycling superhero for getting that ancient bike up to Potomac and back. I would’ve asked him how he did it but he was too winded to speak.

The return of Penny Farthing Man.
The return of Penny Farthing Man.

The Vasa Ride is indeed legendary. Starting off in Georgetown, it’s a ride that’s challenging and scenic, concluding with an embassy visit to sample a unique delicacy. Plus, you’re supporting WABA and the cause of cycling in DC.

Coming up in May is an even better ride – Tour de Fat – which combines bikes and New Belgium beer in an unbeatable combination. Do not miss it!

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is the author of The Swamp, a funny new novel that mocks the city America has come to hate.

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