Coast? What Coast? Where's the Coast?! - Two Old Guys Take On A Continent - CycleBlaze

March 27, 2023

Coast? What Coast? Where's the Coast?!

Apologies to the Atlantic Ocean

John here.

The Setting

Imagine arriving at the start of your coast to coast tour. The stunning scenery. The waves crashing on the beach. The wind in your hair. The sand between your toes. The salt air. You can almost see the curvature of the earth at the far horizon.

We’re starting from Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington, D.C.  at mile zero of the C&O Canal. Uh, what’s that I see across the water in the near distance? Arlington, Virginia!?  Just what the heck are we dipping our wheels into? Where’s the coast?

Georgetown Waterfront Park sits on the Potomac River. The closest beach is at least 40 miles away by bike at Chesapeake Beach, Maryland on Chesapeake Bay. From there it’s about 125 miles south-southeast as the crow flies to the open ocean at Virginia Beach, Virginia, or about 80  miles east as the crow flies to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on the other side of the Delmarva Peninsula.

Thus does the question arise: Georgetown Waterfront Park. Coast? Or not coast?

My Rationale

Permit me a few moments to shuck and jive, tap dance, perhaps holler “Look, there’s Elvis” a time or two.

I hang my delusion of "Georgetown Waterfront Park as Coast" on two phenomena.

Phenomenon Numero Uno

What happens several times every day on the coast of an ocean? Tides! That gravitational interplay of the sun and moon on the world’s oceans. The rising and falling of the water level as the earth turns. Tides are  correctly described as long period, low amplitude tidal waves.

So, what about Georgetown Waterfront Park?

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Well, whaddaya know! The Potomac River at Georgetown Waterfront Park goes up and down with the Atlantic Ocean tide.
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Phenomenon Numero Dos

The ocean is salty. You've tasted it. You've spit it out. How about the water at Georgetown Waterfront Park? It’s brackish, as in slightly salty, as in a mixture of river water and seawater. Salty ocean water infiltrates as far inland on the Potomac River at Little Falls Dam, 5 or 6 miles upstream from Georgetown Waterfront Park. So, salty water at the start.


Georgetown Waterfront Park is arguably on "the coast". Let's check off the criteria

  • The tide rises and falls.
  • The water tastes of the ocean.
  • Perhaps you can imagine
    • The stunning scenery (maybe Arlington, Virginia is beautiful)
    • The waves crashing on the beach (the tidal wave is pretty quiet, but perhaps the wake of a boat is lapping the shore) 
    • The wind in your hair (not a headwind I hope)
    • The sand between your toes (there may be some sand mixed with the mud, but we'll have shoes on)
    • The salt air (okay, maybe not this one)
    • The curvature of the earth (it's out there)

I rest my case. We're riding coast to coast. No offense, Atlantic Ocean. 

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Comment on this entry Comment 4
Keith AdamsExcellent analysis! Given that you're undertaking a journey likely to cover 4,000 miles or so, and that it's *YOUR* journey and nobody else's, how could it possibly matter any less whether you start on the traditionally-accepted briny or at a place more convenient to you?

I live in the DC suburbs of Maryland. If you'd like an escort to see you on your way let me know and I'll gladly join you for a day or two, assuming I'm around and available.

Last fall, Dave Henderson was completing a shakedown tour and I was able to surprise him along his transit of the C&O Canal and we rode together for an enjoyable afternoon. It may be that I see him off on his (deferred) transcontinental journey as well.
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10 months ago
John ChimahuskyTo Keith AdamsWe're staying with a WarmShowers host in Bethesda the night of May 3. She offered to ride with us to the C&O towpath the next morning. I'm guessing we'll reach the towpath via the Union Arch Trail at Cedar Island, but won't know that and the time until the day of. Keep in touch.
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10 months ago
Rick StoutAh, coast to coast? NOPE. The Columbia River has tides 15 miles inland. The EAST coast is NJ, NY, MD or Virginia. Not DC. If you are going to do coast to coast, do it right. 😂
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9 months ago
John ChimahuskyTo Rick StoutThe traditional Transamerica Trail starts and ends at Yorktown, Virginia. Much closer to the open ocean than D.C., I admit, but still on the York River just shy of where it enters Chesapeake Bay. Tidally-influenced brackish-water estuary. It's a matter of degrees. Even if you don't buy "coast to coast" you'll have to give me "transcontinental". Definitely two sides of the same continent. I continue to maintain my delusion. 😉ðŸĪŠðŸ˜ĩ‍ðŸ’Ŧ
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9 months ago