Spinning class is not riding on Rock Creek Parkway

In my second spinning class which came just a day and a half after my first spinning class, I decided to ignore the instructor and pedal at my own pace. That was easy since the music was so loud that I could not hear her anyway. I did stand and sit when others did so as not to be rude.

But, in my mind’s eye, I retraced the 20-plus mile route I know so well from my Georgetown house along Que Street and into Rock Creek Park. I went up and down hills, passed the outdoor gym equipment, under bridges, behind the zoo where the Panda cub just died, past the mill and onto Beach Drive (closed to traffic on weekends). In awhile, I came to another piece of road that runs beside the creek and is shaded by a grand urban forest whose tree leaves must now be changing color, and past the rest rooms at the picnic sites (they probably have not yet been locked for the season). Then comes the long downhill where my speed could get to be 19 or 20 miles an hour before leveling out again to pass playing fields, tennis courts, residential cul-de-sacs.

The next bit is a hard slog on roads past undistinguished Maryland suburb houses, the Big Wheel bike shop and the fancy dry cleaner who could net rectify the damage done to Cousin Minnie’s 19th century capes, hats, skirts and bathing suit in the flood in the Kennel House, and across the East-West Highway with the help of a traffic light. The trail is dirt and gravel as it passes through the country club golf course on what’s called the Georgetown Branch in honor of an out-of-use railway. A Whole Foods affords a chance to demount, pee and buy whatever groceries will fit in my backpack for the final leg. After a long tunnel, the path arrives in Bethesda at the Barnes and Noble and the start of the Capital Crescent Trail.

It’s mostly downhill from here but more complicated to ride since people are pushing strollers, walking dogs or biking too fast. I had not noticed the coincidence that a tunnel on the trail is called Dalecarlia just like the ugly intersection in Wakefield until I was taking this imaginary ride. Both were named around the turn of the 19th (to 20th) century for a Swedish resort that must have been popular with Americans at the time. In recent years, the trail has come to a polished, hard-scaped end in the Georgetown Waterfront Park.

I miss that ride. I did it most weekends for many years. Any non-spinning bike rides of consequence in Rhode Island require putting my bike on the back of the car for the first leg. No simple pedaling past the garden gate to embark in DC.

While the spinning class doesn’t hold a candle to an outing through Rock Creek, it does exercise the big muscles in my legs. And in 45 minutes indoors, I can review a two-hour outdoor ride. It’s a time saver! My apologies to any readers who made it this far. All the images are in my head.

  1. laurel marget said:

    I remember wonderful biking to the studio to record – glad all goes well!

    • I do miss those days of using my bike as a means of transportation. So much better than exercise! Great to hear from you. Howdy to Bobby.

  2. I can’t find my column in the newspaper archive, but here is a piece I wrote about spinning in Feb 2012:

    Tour de Childhood

    Pawing through my purse at the gym a few months back, I couldn’t find my ear buds. No way was I going to get on a cross-trainer for thirty minutes of agony without them—I can’t stand exercising sans the Jon Stewart distraction, or CNN, or Cary Grant on Turner Classics.
    My club sells headphones but I knew I had several pairs, somewhere, and didn’t want to buy more. I sighed.
    Thinking about finking out and heading home, I happened to notice a woman in spandex shorts and an oversized t-shirt duck into a dark room. I’m not sure why but I followed her.
    “What happens in here?” I asked.
    “Spin class,” she said. “It’s the best.”
    “You won’t find a better workout anywhere,” another woman said, as she unscrewed and raised the seat on a bike. “Just try it once.”
    “How long is the class?” I asked.
    “Only an hour and the time races by,” the first woman said. “The music’s great too.” I shrugged. Why not give it a try? Over a dozen stationary bikes faced the front of the room. I picked one in a back corner. A woman showed me how to adjust the seat and handlebars. I hopped on, the first time in years I’d been on a bike.
    I quit riding when the 10-speed I’d bought at a yard sale skidded out from under me and I fell hard and fast on some slippery dry leaves. The fall left a bruise from thigh to knee that looked like the map of Africa. I’m still swollen, ten years later. The impact also destroyed the steel-enforced wrist splint I was wearing (carpel tunnel issues) but mercifully spared my bones. I was also lucky that no cars were coming around the blind bend in the narrow road where I went down.
    After that accident, I swore off bikes but missed riding. As a child, I lived on my bike and over the years owned several; most had only one gear, pedal brakes, and temperamental chains. They all had bells and baskets. I painted one silver, another bright red. My bike and my dog were my best friends. I rode all over the college town where I grew up–to local parks, along every campus path, and out a country road to the swimming pool. Nobody wore helmets and my parents had no idea, nor did they particularly care, where I was.
    The instructor came in, turned off the dim lights, and turned on the loud music. She got on a bike facing the class. I started pedaling, like everybody else. I closed my eyes and imagined riding down my childhood driveway and heading up the street. I pretended to turn right at Lilac Lane, imagined the shrubs in their lavender glory, and headed past the Hughes place, where, most days, two stout golden retrievers bounded out to greet me.
    Over Mick Jagger, the instructor was yelling at us to stand and climb, so I stood on my bike, increased the resistance, and took myself up that steep hill on Elm Road, the route I took home from an afternoon of weaving and racing along the sycamore-lined trails at Marquand Park.
    Despite Lady Gaga, I heard the wind rustling the dune grass on that long ride I took all over Nantucket Island one summer day, decades ago. At every beach I stopped and swam, then jumped back on my rental Schwinn and let the salty warm air dry my skin.
    I’ve been going to spin class now for months. I sprint, hover, and climb when told, but I’m never really there in that dark room with the loud music and humming fans. I’m a kid out on her bike. Forget the news and Oprah’s drama. Forget ear buds.
    Look. I’m riding down the home stretch—no hands!

    Contact Carol Henderson at: cd.henderson@gmail.com

      • Looks better here. You sure that silver bike wasn’t a hand-me-down from me? I got a bike from Trudy Goheen that Da and I painted silver. The bell and the basket could not detract from the overall elegance of that bike, especially once it was silver.

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