After negotiating a few more tricky sections, Nick decides that ice-coated asphalt isn't sketchy enough, and leads the group off trail with an abrupt right turn. Immediately, we drop down a steep dirt path coated with equal parts snow and ice, and bisected here and there by wandering roots and fallen branches. I make the mistake of overcompensating for a log drop and throw down a foot for balance. It's not a pretty sight, and I lose my place in the pack, but the impromptu outrigging keeps me upright long enough to clip back in and keep moving. The trail levels off, and we wind along a twisty section that's a bit of a challenge at speed on skinny tires. Snow and ice give way by turns to frozen earth. Eventually we reach a short uphill that turns downhill almost immediately. The downward slope is a veritable sheet of ice, a short but narrow stripe lined with rocks that weaves between two stout tree trunks near the bottom before cutting hard left.Two riders give it a whirl, only one of whom is successful, success being measured by keeping both feet on the pedals. The rest of us dig in our shoes and walk our bikes down as best we can, slipping and sliding most of the way. Jeff takes a small spill as his feet lose traction, eliciting the first good-natured laugh from the group.We mount up again, but the mini-trail peters out at this point near some houses, so we all head back up a steep grade to the W&OD Trail again.
Back on the W&OD, we roll over a few more ice patches, occasionally hopping on the gravelly sister trail that runs parallel to the path proper. Soon we're wheeling into Herndon, eight and a half miles into the ride, where we do a ride-by on some yuppie spot (Mediterranean Breeze?) that Nick mentioned before deciding it's not for us. We head over a block or two from the trail to an old WUSS standby: Jimmy's Tavern. We lock up the bikes, head in, and order the first beer of the day. It isn't long before Jonny B succumbs to what has become a tradition on the westward WUSS Tours de Swill: a round of Jägermeister as a sort of winter warmer.
Old Dominion Brewing Company.
The miles roll by largely without incident, though there are enough icy downhills to test our mettle and offer up visual evidence of the amount of alcohol still in our veins. One by one we reach the brewery sign, conveniently located right next to the trail between mile markers 25 and 25.5. We regroup for a few minutes, debating whether to hit the brewpub now or continue pedaling on to the Pedal Shop where, rumor has it, owner Mike is waiting with a stash of brew in the mini-fridge. We decide that more mileage is in order, and so continue on the trail toward the shop on Ashburn Road. At this point, we've racked up a meager 14 miles.
[End Part 2]