Spring and summer in D.C. are gorgeous. In April the cherry blossoms are in bloom, the reflections of the monuments dance along the surface of the Potomac, and there always seems to be a festival happening. Summers get hot but one look at the lush Georgetown Parkway and you feel refreshed. Driving around on the windy, green roads of Virginia are also a great escape from dusty D.C. Warm nights and cool, early mornings make a spring or summer joyride around the metro area delicious.
Pit stop #2 on our list of “Great Places in D.C. for the Auto Enthusiast” is a little more abstract than our last pit stop. I’m going to give you a starting point and an end point–and put you in the vicinity of some excellent driving roads. I was introduced to these places by the Alfa Romeo owners club of D.C. when I accompanied them on an “Alfa Drive” through Maryland. If this sounds like a cool idea, there are plenty of other car clubs in the area — and I’m sure they would love to have another hot-shot car join their group. If a caravan isn’t your style, then stay tuned because I’ll give you some tips on where to start your personal joyride.
My alarm clock rang at 5:00am and I dragged myself from bed and into an Alfa Romeo GTV6. For most people, listening to it start would serve as a better wake-up call than even the strongest cup of coffee. “Red GTV6” (such a descriptive name), really does roar. We opened the sunroof and put the windows down. The smell of motor oil and “classic 80s interior” wafted through the car as we motored up towards the meeting place.
We took George Washington Parkway (north) — and as we began to pass the Spout Run exit, the sun started to peek over the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It was a truly glorious sight. Even better, the road was EMPTY. Car enthusiasts know the true value of an open road — and one that is both winding and well-paved is as drool-worthy as a medium rare New York strip steak. The GW Parkway between 5 and 6am is a great place to start your morning joyride–this is point number one.
We met the other Alfa owners in front of a little French bakery, Vie De France Bakery Cafe, in Potomac, MD. They are open early and their food is amazing. This is point number two on the joyride map.
The parking lot was full of GTVs, Spyders, Giulias and our GTV6. We rounded up the troops and headed north on River Road in Potomac Maryland.
River Road is the key to a successful joyride in this area and it is point number three. After you leave the French bakery and the strip malls of Potomac behind, the roads open up and become rural race tracks for those in the know. However, be mindful of your speed as you depart Potomac, there are a few speed traps.
Now, this is where you drivers can be creative. The countryside is your oyster — feel free to explore and enjoy the roads out this way.
River Road “ends” by dead ending at Seneca Road — but before you get to this point, feel free to turn right on just about any of the preceding streets. Esworthy Road is a good one — tree lined and curvy. It will intersect with Seneca Road, and will lead you up into Darnestown. Darnestown Road (going North west) will take you near the VA-MD border and will be surrounded by fields and farms. If you wish to stick closer to D.C. or 270, Turkey Foot Road is pretty — as is Glen Road. There is no specific “point” for me to highlight here — rural Maryland is gorgeous from any road.
The Alfa caravan wound around the countryside for more than an hour before pulling in at a roadside dinner. Greasy eggs and jelly-covered toast are always a must after a good drive. We parked as if the Alfas were about to go through inspection and headed inside to eat.
Now, the diner we ate at was a nice, family place but the food wasn’t anything to write home about. Therefore, I suggest the retro Star Diner. This is the final point on this “connect the dot” joyride map. It was designed to make you feel like you’ve going back in time — a similar feeling when you’re driving a vintage car. This Star Diner is also close to 270 so that joyriders can hop on the highway to make an easy escape home. Also, milkshakes are good at any time during the day.
On our drive, after we finished our eggs, swapping Alfa stories, and drinking dizzying amounts of coffee, each Alfa owner departed for home. We loaded up the GTV6, said goodbye to Alfa friends — both old and new — and promised to return the motley crew to the road again sometime soon.
I enjoy club drives — getting up at 5:00am is a bargain if it means you can spend time amongst gorgeous vehicles and friendly gear-heads. I suggest that you driving fiends check out some of the roads listed above and/or a car club in the area. They will have even more routes for the hard-core joyrider to explore.
Who Should Go?
Drivers and roadies who love to explore new roads, enjoy the wind in their hair, fresh croissants, hot cups of coffee, and getting pleasantly lost.
Vie De France Bakery and Cafe
10146 River Rd
Potomac, MD 20854
705 Center Point Way, Gaithersburg, MD