Posts Tagged ‘George Mason Memorial Bridge’

The Custis Trail

The Custis Trail

There are a large number of bike trails in the D.C. metro area that are used for both recreational and commuting purposes.  Connecting two of the area’s longest and most popular trails is the Martha Custis Trail, which was named using the maiden name of the wife of George Washington, the first President of the United States.

The Custis Trail was built alongside Interstate 66, which is named the Custis Memorial Parkway in Virginia east of the Capital Beltway.  But concrete barriers provide a safety barrier and keep the traffic noise down for those on the trail.  The trail opened in the early 1980s at the same time that the highway did.

The Custis Trail is a point-to-point paved bike trail in Arlington, Virginia (MAP).  It is considered a difficult trail, containing a few winding curves and blind turns, as well as moderate climbs, more so if you are traveling east to west.  So it is not recommended for beginners.  The trail is 4 miles long, and connects at its east end to the 17-mile long Mount Vernon Trail, which continues east and south along the Potomac River to Mount Vernon.  At its west end it connects to the 45-mile long Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail, which continues northwest to Purcellville, Virginia.  It is in this area that you can also cross the W&OD to go to the Four Mile Run Trail.   All together, these linked trails providing a continuous 70-mile vehicle-free route through the Northern Virginia suburbs.

Used most popularly as a commuter route, the Custis Trail connects to the Key Bridge leading into D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood, and to the Mount Vernon Trail, which provides access to three other Potomac River crossings into downtown D.C. – the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, the Arlington Memorial Bridge and the George Mason Memorial Bridge.

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The Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial

The Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial

Just a short bike ride over the George Mason Memorial Bridge is The Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial.  While it is technically located in D.C., the memorial is only assessable by going through Virginia by land, or the Potomac River by sea (so to speak).  The Memorial is located just off the Mount Vernon Trail as it passes through Lady Bird Johnson Park on Columbia Island (MAP).  It is a national monument honoring sailors of the United States Navy and the United States Merchant Marine who died at sea during World War I.

The United States Merchant Marine is the fleet of civilian-owned merchant vessels, operated by either the government or the private sector, that engage in commerce or transportation of goods and services in and out of the navigable waters of this country.

During peace time, the Merchant Marine is responsible for transporting cargo and passengers.   In times of war, the Merchant Marine is capable of being an auxiliary to the Navy, and can be called upon to deliver troops and supplies for the military.  Unlike the Navy, however, the Merchant Marine does not have a direct role in combat, although a merchant mariner has a responsibility to protect cargo carried aboard his or her ship.

Nicknamed “Waves and Gulls,” the memorial depicts seven seagulls above the crest of a wave, and reads: “To the strong souls and ready valor of those men of the United States who in the Navy, the Merchant Marine and other paths of Activity upon the waters of the world have given life or still offer it in the performance of heroic deeds this monument is dedicated by a grateful people.”

When you go to the memorial, if you are fortunate enough to encounter one of the men or women to whom it is dedicated, you should refer to them by their preferred designation, Mariners.  The terms seamen, seafarers and sailors is also acceptable for a member of U.S. Merchant Marine.  The term Merchant Marine is incorrect and should not be used to refer to an individual.  And never call one of them a Marine.

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