When to avoid the I495 Beltway

After a good night’s sleep at the Super 8 in Warrendale, PA, Karen and I packed up the Cruiser and headed back out on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on our way towards the 2011 MAMMARY Run.

The local weather radar showed a wide line of rain stretching southwest to northeast across the Pittsburgh, PA area but the rain looked like it stopped around Sommerset, PA. While it wasn’t raining at the hotel, we put on raingear in anticipation of the precipitation in our future.

Aside from some construction zones around Pittsburgh, we made good time down the road under a shallow overcast with blue sky occasionally peaking through the clouds. The weather was warm so there was no need for long-sleeve shirts, or heated jacket liners.

As this was Memorial Day weekend, we started to see groups of motorcycles heading down to Rolling Thunder (Ride to the Wall), a annual pilgrimage to the Vietnam War memorial in Washington DC. Some of the groups were well organized and had obviously ridden together before. Others… not so much. We hung behind a group of six riders that couldn’t keep together. They wove back and forth between lanes and between lines within their staggered formation as they struggled to keep the other travelers on the road from splitting their group. It was a bit like watching a Shriner’s performance, but with much higher entropy.

We stopped at the Somerset plaza for gas and checked the weather radar to verify that no more rain laid in wait along our path. Off came the raingear. We rejoiced at losing the extra layer and Karen also rejoiced at the easier mounting/dismounting of the bike without the extra bulk.

After a bathroom stop in Breezewood, PA, we continued south and enjoyed sunny skies down to Frederick, MD. At this point I made a foolish decision. I had intended to stop at the exit before the I70/I270 interchange and use the iPhone to check traffic to decide whether to take the shorter but more-likely-to-be-messy I270 route down to I495 or to take the longer but less congested route over to Baltimore and south on the other side of Washington DC.

I confess, I got lazy.

We were enjoying the ride so much, I didn’t want to pull off to check traffic and I blew through the interchange and welded our fate to the fickle whims of I270 and the I495 Beltway.

We stopped for gas along I270 before we got to Washington DC and made our way down to I495. That’s when the trip slowed down a bit. If you know the Beltway, you know there’s always a mile or so of congestion where I270 merges in. You do not, however, expect that congestion to span five miles. Yuck. Naturally, the temperature is higher in the metromess, so the comfort level on the bike got lower and lower as the stop-and-go traffic stretched on over the next hill, and the next hill, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Thankfully, the pace eventually picked up to speeds that actually required shifting into gears higher than second. We continued on to the Pennsylvania Avenue exit, and headed out onto the peninsulas along the Chesapeake Bay to find Mitch and Kathy’s place.

We arrived shortly before dinnertime; perfect timing. 😀 The soirée was attended by all the usual suspects and hugs were exchanged, food was consumed, and tasty beverages were shared.

Life is good.

The final distance for the day was 290 miles, bringing the outbound total to 634 miles. The Cruiser is running well, not leaking anything, and genuinely seems to be enjoying the trip.


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Posted from Owings, Maryland, United States.

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