Monday, December 7, 2009

Mount Vernon

I traversed the wooded outerlands of Virginia to reach Mount Vernon by bike on Sunday. My sturdy stead (a bianchi-brava road bicycle) and I headed outward with much excitement. I've been wanting to do this ride for at least a month now and finally caught wind of an opportunity to ride despite the frigid cold. It had snowed the day before but Sunday let the sun roar its shiny head and out washed away much of the snowy pavement. I departed from Dupont Circle, my bike's parking place at work, and found the Mount Vernon trail (route below) after crossing the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

Off I went, quicker than expected but not tiring because of the exhilaration aspiring from my extremities. My legs were machine-powered, the cogs working fluently in motion with the bicycle spokes. My fingers, snug tightly in their gloves, gripped the handlebars. I was flying and couldn't be happier. My heart played along with the beat of Arcade Fire and Radiohead, my "get-hyped-because-I'm-riding-a-bike-in-frickin'-Washington-D.C" music. The visuals were stunning. I would stare at the Capitol Building, just stare as I ride down the paved pathway. It took me a moment to wrap my head around the idea that I was in an environment enthralled with history. I seem to forget that I'm here sometimes, or maybe just get comfortable with it all and need constant reminders or a pinch to ensure it's not a dream. Moments like this remind me that I'm here, exploring Washington D.C. and exploring my self, reminiscent of that in which I encountered on my first long bike ride in Washington. Everything looks slightly similar yet vividly different. The monuments I've grown to adore, stuck out and seemed to say "hello. You are in a wonderful place, enjoy this for the short time you have left."

The sky was a wonderful hue of pink, softly sparkling from the shining sun off the melted snow puddles. I would bike through woods of oak, holly, and laurel trees. In and out, weaving like a mad man. The path took me under highways, over wooden bridges, into muddied swamps, and rumbling on cobbled streets in Alexandria. Sure, the path isn't always glamorous, early on I met the greyness of the Reagan National Airport. I remember thinking what a big extravagant mess it was. Airplanes scraping through the sky, nearly reachable if my hand were a hundred-foot crane. It was loud and ugly, I felt comfort in finding the calm in the wood.

Birds echoed my name as I entered the forests. Birds I've only seen from encyclopedias and picture books. A bright red cardinal lie on the low-hanging tree branch ahead of me. I screeched to a halt in order to get a longer-lasting view of it. The bird sparkled and sang a sweet whistle. I tried whistling alongside it but found it shied away the more I continued. So I halted my melody and decided to just observe the sweetness the cardinal evoked. It felt great to be in that present state, just me and the beauty that exists in nature. The joys of birdwatching finally became apparent.

After a 2-hour venture, I arrived at my destination, Mount Vernon. The estate encompassed a true sense of American spirit and past. The sheep lay grazing the grasses as I entered. Washington's Mansion lie in the heart of the estate and stuck out against the pink-hued backdrop. The exterior was white, with forest-colored shutters and a Merlot-stained roof. I remember thinking how the colors resembled my home in West Jordan, Utah. The one where I have lived consecutively for the longest period of time, evoking an immediate sense of home for me with the place. I can see why Washington loved it here. There was a beautiful view of the Potomac River, glimmering with hope and rain water. I wandered the grounds, looked into the frost-bitten gardens and onto the harbor and Washington's grave site. The stories told here seemed endless and the history of the place pulsated from the floorboards. I remember seeing Washington's prized black chair in his workroom and thought about the greatness that this chair has bestowed. He used the chair as the first President of the United States and then brought it back home to work from it. The birth of our nation lies threaded with the brass and leather from that single piece of furniture. I was in awe.

As I biked back the same way I had come, I thought about many things. Scrolls of questions and pondering rants lie inside my mind. I thought about the sacrifice. I thought about democracy. I thought about the journey of life. As my body grew tired of the travel, I found my mind growing more acute, continuing onwards towards the monument erected for the man which I just regained a new found love for. I thought about the choice he made to give up his power in order to let this country be for the people, by the people. I lie there in Washington's shadow taking it all in and as I cross back over the Arlington Memorial Bridge, I acknowledge the journey I had just taken and the one that lie ahead.

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