When in DC
January 29, 2019
So, you've gotten off of your train at Union Station. Now what?
If you’re not planning on coming to our meeting in April, you should. You, yourself, can positively impact passenger rail service in the United States. Plus, you get the added bonus of staying in our Nation’s Capitol, as we've managed to secure a good rate at the Westin right in Downtown DC.
However, on that last point, I have a recommendation. If you go see the monuments, ever, in this new Rome of ours, I have a piece of advice. Don’t walk. Don’t take a cab. No, when you get off of your train at Union Station, grab a bike!
I have in the past refused to take people to the National Mall without bikes. The Mall, especially during peak season, is entirely too full of people whose blood sugar levels have collapsed, and are otherwise too sober, under caffeinated, completely dehydrated, and in a mood reflective of all of those symptoms.
The Mall, while iconic and beautiful, will never quite replicate the easy pleasure of Tivoli Gardens or the Jardin des Tuileries in my lifetime, however there is an easy work around. The scale of the mall is appropriate for a horse, a streetcar, a motorcade... or, even better, a bicycle.
On a bike, you can cover the whole thing in well under an hour, in relative comfort and ease. A bicycle crushes the immense scale of the place better than any other available conveyance. Plus, you can escape to decent bars and restaurants in real neighborhoods when you've had your fill of patriotic introspection and museum going, like the amazing Stachowski's Deli in Georgetown. (An aside, but a destination with Pastrami so good, that the entire German delegation makes a stop there every time they're in the city. Also, the best turkey club of my life can be found there. And! It's not even that expensive, and no I was not paid to say this). Unless you’ve biked in a city before, I would strongly recommend the use of the nearby grade-separated trail to get from the mall to Georgetown—so, say you’re heading from our meeting at the Westin, you’d take a promenade like this:
Insofar as the bikes themselves-- Capitol Bike Share is easy to use, affordable, and ubiquitous. However, one can encounter frustrating bike-share issues of arriving at a full station, or attempting to grab bikes from an empty one. I'd highly recommend using JUMP bikes -- electric assist machines that give you a boost with each pedal. Effortless, fun, and fast. Especially recommended should they want to climb Capitol Hill for a visit to the Library of Congress (honestly, the best thing on the mall, and a place that belies its somber name with the flamboyance of the Paris Opera House -- our Cathedral to scholarship, and daresay, facts).
And to keep track of them all, as well as Capitol Bikeshare on top of metro trains, I'd highly, highly recommend downloading this application for the duration of your stay. It even makes our crazy bus system transparent and relatively easy to use: https://transitapp.com/
So! Come to the meeting in April, it’s a perfect time to register and make your plans. Then, ride a bike!
"Saving the Pennsylvanian (New York-Pittsburgh train) was a local effort but it was tremendously useful to have a national organization [NARP] to call upon for information and support. It was the combination of the local and national groups that made this happen."
Michael Alexander, NARP Council Member
April 6, 2013, at the Harrisburg PA membership meeting of NARP