It was 6 a.m., and I was high.
My Drug: The Wilson Boulevard hill
About everyone who lives in the Washington, D.C., area knows of the Wilson Boulevard hill. If you don’t live in D.C., you probably have a hill in your neighborhood that shares a similar notoriety in the eyes of cyclists, pedestrians, and other self-propelled beings.
During the two and half years I lived in the District, I worked in Arlington, Virginia, which meant a twice-daily (there and back) encounter with the Wilson Boulevard hill. The hill starts in Rosslyn, right after you cross the Potomac River and enter Virginia. With just a few flat stretches mixed in, the thing continues all the way into Clarendon. For non D.C.-ists, that’s about two miles.
For me, the up-hill was on my way into work. Just after the Key Bridge, I’d steel myself for the challenge before me. Under the overpass, around the curve, pray for a green light so I can keep my momentum through the intersection, past the Safeway, wonder if the pedestrians in their crisp suits can see the sweat dripping from underneath my helmet. Brief flat stretch in front of Greenberry’s Coffee, and then up again, past a gas station and a Whole Foods and that place that always smells like barbecue.
Finally, wheeling past the Clarendon Metro stop, safe in the knowledge that only gentle terrain lay between me and my destination, I would start smiling, and that smile would stay with me right up to when I stepped into the bike commuter locker room at my office. Can you imagine: arriving at work smiling?
I was smiling, because the hardest part of my day was over. I knew that if I could pedal, panniers packed full, up a 45-degree incline, then I could definitely handle that tedious spending report that was due. I was confident I could deal with that disgruntled customer who insisted I personally had lost her payment. And I was confident I’d come up with a fitting response for that infuriating colleague who habitually interrupted women.
Some may roll their eyes at the term “natural high,” but this was one. Blood pumping, mind active, heart happy—and all before the sun was up. I didn’t even need coffee when I rode the Wilson Boulevard hill.
OK, that’s an outright lie.
Still, if you’re a bike commuter, I encourage you to seek out your area’s Wilson Boulevard hill. If it’s not on your commute route, weave it in. The high is worth it.