Not interested in getting out of D.C. this weekend? Get around it instead, using one of these three border-exploration options. Or follow in our footsteps — Express took a long, long walk to circumnavigate the city. See how we did it here.
Inspired by a big-deal bike event called RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), Capitol Hill bike blogger David Cranor devised WAGBRAD (Washcycle’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Around D.C.). The 50-mile route along trails and roads is tough, especially hilly Southern Avenue. But Cranor organized groups to do it four times, and says it’s worth the trip: “You get to see how different the neighborhoods are, and how they’re connected.”
After the 2011 ride — and the birth of Cranor’s kids — the event was put on indefinite hiatus. He wants to resurrect eventually; for now, you can use his map. At a leisurely pace, it should take about six hours, although Cranor guesses that speedsters may be able to do it in as little as three.
Driving the Diamond
It doesn’t matter how much time you’ve spent stuck in your car in the District. You’ve probably never covered the full 48 miles of the “Driving the Diamond” car tour. “It’s just not a route anybody would take to get anywhere,” says Lize Mogel, who developed it as part of “Sight Lines,” a project commissioned by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities in 2012. The New York-based artist’s specialty is counter-cartography, so she set out to make a map that would help people look at Washington differently.
“Driving the Diamond” frames both the project and the city, says Mogel, who was intrigued by the city’s peculiar shape, as well as the arbitrariness of the neighborhood divisions. Which side of the line you live on determines whether you have voting Congressional representation, she notes.
To take the trip, download the map at sightlinesdc.com, and make sure you have three hours and a good road trip soundtrack.
The first folks to work their way around D.C. were the surveyors who mapped out the nation’s new capital in 1791. Stephen Powers retraces their steps every May by driving (and then hiking) to each of the boundary stones that were placed about a mile apart along the route. The markers are a bit of an obsession for the Arlington resident, who runs boundarystones.org and serves as co-chairman of the National Capital Boundary Stones Committee, and is writing a book on the stones that comes out next spring.
Powers credits this annual trip — which can take up to seven hours — with giving him a window into how the city has changed and continues to evolve.
“For 150 years, they sat in the woods and no one noticed them,” he says. But as D.C. development has flourished, they’ve become increasingly visible. Although the fact that they’re coming out of hiding is good for history buffs, there’s also a greater risk of vandalism. In some ways, Powers says, “they were better off when nobody knew about them.”
To get a sense of what Washington once looked like, he recommends contacting the Army Corps of Engineers for permission to enter the Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant. Inside the government-owned forest sits NW5 — “my all-time favorite,” Powers says. “You get the feeling of what the surveyors went through.”
Read more about exploring D.C.’s border: