Fredericksburg to Charlottesville

Greetings everybody.

I have been enjoying all of the ride reports I find on the Internet, and finally have one to write myself. I also have a new Cue Sheet available for this route here. This all happened the weekend of June 15-16, 1996. I had a car to drive back Monday morning to get to work. Maybe some other day I can turn this one-way into a loop.

For those who were a bit intimidated by Riley Geary's long, sleepless odyssey along busy roads with unpaved shoulders, I offer this alternative.

The DC-Fredericksburg route of Stephen Smith formed the basis for my tour. (Update: Compare with Allen J. Muchnick's Arlington-to-Fredericksburg route.) With that in hand, I gathered a few maps and tried to see what roads other the Rt. 29 and Rt. 20 went to Charlottesville. I'd driven those roads many times, and don't recall seeing any other bicyclists taking them. Let's see - I got the DC-Fredericksburg cue sheet on May 14th, the maps on June 11th. Friday riding on the way into work my odometer passed 500 miles (for 1996 so far), and "on the way home" I took the Mt. Vernon trail down to Mt. Vernon - chalking up 50 miles for the day. So I figured I was almost in condition for longer rides. The weather reports were promising, and having a free place to stay in Fredericksburg was the icing on the cake. This would be the weekend. So Friday I call my friend Richard in Charlottesville, and then a 10pm that night his friend Dave in Fredericksburg to confirm the plans.

Then came the time to figure out what I should take. The clothes could fit in my handlebar bag. But I decided I wanted something other than cycling shoes to walk around in, and something other than a T-shirt in case dinner was to be in a nice restaurant. So Saturday, once the bike stores open, I am shopping for panniers. And a third water bottle, since it was already quite warm and sunny. And sunblock.

So I'm out the door by noon Saturday. I live in Alexandria, and decided not to head to the Potomac, but to take Telegraph road starting from Duke St. Traffic wasn't to heavy, and I survived going under the Beltway. The hills just south of Backlick Rd confirmed for me that the bike was well balanced and I hadn't overpacked my new panniers.

It was just a matter of following the cue sheet. A couple of things I can add: There is plenty of civilization, convenience stores and gas stations until Dumphries Rd (234). After that I was on my water bottles, and was glad to see the store that is on Poplar Rd about 1 mile before Trustlow Rd. Oh, and the "long ride" on Poplar Rd is 10 miles by my odometer. The rest of the cues were pretty close. I ended up with 65 miles on the odometer for the day. I got into Fredericksburg a little past 5pm, ahead of my estimated schedule.

A shower. Air Conditioning. A change of clothes (The comfy running shoes were indeed nice to wear). A couple of Corona's with limes. No restaurant, but instead four of us had salad, steaks, and corn on the cob for dinner. Then we went to see the movie "The Rock".

Though I had said "I'll be on the road at dawn", I left at 9:00am. I hadn't really been serious about the dawn thing anyways. But I didn't really know how far I'd be riding that day. Rt. 3 over Interstate 95 wasn't too bad at that hour. Some construction barrels limited the road width in spots, but the drivers seemed understanding about giving me room.

Old Plank Rd seems nice now, but with all the homes being built in various developments it will become saturated with car traffic. But in just a few miles I knew that I was on the roads less traveled. The details are in my cue sheet, so I won't do a blow-by-blow route description here. I must say that these were all quite pleasant roads to ride on. Many weren't even painted. In the planning stages I was concerned about navigating the geographical features such as avoiding Lake Anna, crossing the various rivers, etc. Actually the grades and lengths of the hills were all quite reasonable. (I'll admit here to using my granny gear).

My lunch was a ham and cheese sandwich and a fresh tomato at the store where 629 crosses 522, so I didn't actually need to stop in Orange. Though there are probably better places in Orange, I just got some Gatorade at the 7/11. It was just about 90 degrees F most of the day (was Saturday too) and sunny.

Rt. 20 seemed calm enough, so I didn't do a detour SW of Orange I had noted on the map, but just took Rt. 20 out of town. I did head over 616 to 641, where I found 2 miles of gravel. Really, it wasn't bad. Even recumbants could handle it. The stones were fairly small, and the surface was hard. Not Sandy. Not Rutted. A nice, out of the way road. Still, gravel-phobics could just stay on Rt. 20.

Now I happened to have a destination just west of Charlottesville, but I still recommend my route. I decided I'd rather travel west on back roads than the busy streets of C'ville itself. I also wanted to avoid those hills between Rt. 20 and Rt. 29 south of Orange. My impression is that there are more and steeper hills just east of C'ville (but I haven't actually ridden there recently to give a fair comparison). I do know that my car's engine works pretty hard along Rt. 20 just before getting into town by Pantops, and then you're in the hilly part of the city anyways. The only issue from Earlysville into Charlottesville was the long grade down and up from the resevoir area. Still, that river has to be crossed somewhere.

Barracks road west of town is part of the Bikecentennial Trans-Continental route.

Dinner in Charlottesville was at Big Jim's (off Angus road, which is west of 29 just north of the 250 bypass). Burgers, BBQ, Domestic beer. Big pile of fries with their platters. Most of the bikes outside it are made by Harley Davidson, but they'll serve people who pedal too.

Those who've read this far either are patient, had lots of time to kill anyways, or are sizing up the route to attempt it themselves. The latter might care to know that I am a 33 year old male, riding a Trek 1420 21 speed Aluminum road bike. Typically I have only ridden on the W&OD Trail, the Mt. Vernon trail, and RAGBRAI. I have done the last five RAGBRAI's, and will do my 6th this summer. (Any Team RADPAN members out there? Send me email.)

Miles: 145   (65 DC-F'burg, 80 F'burg-C'ville)
Average riding speed: 13.5 mph Saturday, 11.5 mph Sunday.
Elapsed travel time: 13 Hours. 5.5 Saturday, 7.5 Sunday
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Last modified: Thu Jul 9 16:52:31 CDT 1998