Basil, Argyll, Dr. Diarist and I spent this past weekend in Washington, D.C., attending the USA Brompton National Championsip (also known as the BNC, or, more specifically, as BUSC). We put our Bromptons into our sub-compact car and drove to DC; it’s an easy drive, theoretically of only a couple of hours’ duration.
The trip took twice as long as it should have, even though we left in plenty of time to avoid prime traffic hours, and we were travelling against the heaviest flow. As a result, we got to our hotel in just enough time to change, hop on our Bromptons, and cycle the roughly three miles to the British Embassy, which had very generously opened its doors to the weekend’s participants.
The British Embassy! We were thrilled: What could be more exciting for a fold of Anglophiles?
Basil and Argyll have now been on British soil where once Britain’s Queen stood! (The floor here was actually a lovely hardwood, but poetic license is normally permitted in these circumstances, and we’re claiming it.)
This first event of weekend was scheduled from 6-8 pm, happily coinciding, more or less, with daylight hours. We were all reminded to bring government-issued ID, and went through a careful, courteous security check before we entered the compound.
There were plenty of bike valets and lots of bike parking on the lawn outside, which made for very good Brompton-spotting on the way in.
The A frames made for interesting and effective bike storage; the saddles loop over the top bar, and the bikes rest on their front wheels.
However, we’d been told that Brompton riders were welcome to bring their bicycles inside, which, of course we did. When would Basil and Argyll ever have another chance to experience being inside the embassy of their home country?
Argyll and Basil were greeted cheerfully by embassy staff, and settled in with a friend for the evening, next to the entrance to the reception room.
We had been promised a sampling of British treats, and the embassy did not disappoint. Dr. Diarist and I particularly appreciated the cheeses.
We were a little confused by the “Wesleydale” label on the cheese on the left; it’s almost identical to the “Wensleydale” we sought out as fans of Wallace and Gromit; Wensleydale is Wallace’s favorite cheese, and a very fine cheese it is. So, it must be noted, was the Stilton and Apricot on the right.
The star of the cheese platters though, was the Kilchurn Estate Stilton, which had a lovely tang, and the Farmhouse Cheddar came a close second.
Cheeses weren’t the only British goods on display, though. Crabbies Ginger Beer was on hand, as well as Strongbow ciders, beer, ales, and several whiskeys. We munched and schmoozed happily, delighted to be in the company of fellow Bromptoneers.
Nutcase’s Union Jack helmet was much in evidence over the weekend, including at these festivities.
There was a handsome Arctic Blue Brompton in the reception area which got quite a bit of attention. (We suspect that there were a few invitees who weren’t necessarily Bromptoneers, but may have had an interest in British commerce.)
A beautiful Moulton was set against a column, and caused much comment. Moultons disassemble, but don’t properly fold, and their engineering is a marvel in its own right.
A few lovely Pashleys were also in evidence. I love and adore my Basil, but even I recognize the beauty of these frames. (Though, really, there is nothing like a Brompton!)
After mingling, everyone moved into the rotunda for the remainder of the evening.
Bromptons were set on pedestals under the domed roof, like fine sculptures.
Most Brompton colors render well on a monitor, but a computer screen does not do justice to the “Merlot”, which is an incredibly rich and deep tone when directly viewed.
On the softer side, colour-wise, was this titanium Turkish Green S model. Look at that sleek and compact fold! It’s a thing of beauty!
Other Brompton-related, British, goods were arrayed along a wall, very nicely displayed with reproductions of vintage ads.
I hadn’t previously seen the Brooks John Boultbee Gents Criterion Cycling Jacket (which, oh my, retails for € 1000.00, according to the website).
We admired this 2012 Jubilee Brompton limited edition, a handsome M3L, complete with a Union Jack tweed S bag.
Speaking of British tailoring, that S flap is extraordinary up close. (OK, strictly speaking, that’s not tailoring at all, but it’s really quite nice, and an amusing amalgamation of different tweeds and textures.)
Along with a few short speeches, including a lively, cheery and amusing pitch for the advantages of British-USA trade, we enjoyed a few warm-up contests, just to get us all in the mood for the serious competitions later in the weekend.
That natty gent in the center, in the tuxedo jersey and plus-fours, was the first to try his hand at the speed fold. Those who stepped up to volunteer were, perhaps unsurprisingly, rather adept at the process.
Then Emily, from DC, tried her hand. The yellow and hot pink Brompton was, as far as we could determine, the only other yellow B at the weekend’s events, which surprised us.
Fernando was moving so fast he blurrred! I don’t remember who was fastest (maybe Melissa?), but it was an impressive performance by everyone who entered.
Then there was an Impromptu “best-dressed” line-up, which MJ won by acclaim, in her equestrian helmet and proper tweed riding jacket. Sadly, my overhead shot only caught her from the back.
Then it was time to leave. Dr. Diarist and I made our way to the garden, cognizant of the fact that neither Basil nor Argyll was equipped with lights. Naturally, though, we stopped to take pictures of our Bromptons in the garden, next to the Embassy’s classic British phone box.
Many people wanted to take pictures of, or near, the phone box. Dr. Diarist kept offering to remove Argyll and Basil, but everyone said “No, leave the Bromptons!”, so our Bs happily posed for others, too.
We missed the crowd shot; it was organizing as we were preparing to leave, and we suspected that an extra ten minutes might prove problematic at the other end of our three-mile trip back to the hotel.
It was a wonderful ride back, straight down Massachusetts Avenue., after a wonderful evening.
We were probably fortunate there was a full moon, though plentiful streetlights helped — as did riding on the sidewalk for the last little bit. That may or may not have been legal; we were at the border of DC’s civic center no-bicycling-on-the-sidewalk zone, and, technically speaking, riding on the boundary line. (No pedestrians were abused in the course of our travel.)
What does a cyclist wear to a cycling event at the British Embassy? This is what I wore: a Little Black Dress and Mary Jane shoes. I didn’t wear the high-vis vest within the hallowed halls of the Embassy.
This evening’s trip was the first time the four of us had ridden on Washington DC’s streets, and, more significantly, through its traffic round-abouts. We had just arrived at the hotel when Dr. Diarist immortalized our survival, and I was already removing the vest.
Back in our room, far too high in the sky, we admired night-time Washington. We could see the Washington Monument from our window, but some of its inherent majesty (so to speak) was lost due to the crane superimposed across its middle.
But the lights of evening were beautiful, and the evening’s experiences had been as perfect as they could possibly have been. We went to bed happy, and so impressed with all of the cheerful efforts of the Embassy staff, of Brompton itself and of BicycleSPACE, the local hosting Brompton dealer . . . and the weekend had hardly begun!