How to Visit All 177 DC Embassies
If you’ve been reading my blog posts for a while, it should be no surprise when I say that I’m a challenge addict.
Whether it’s running a solo marathon with no training, biking across the USA, or running up the stairs enough times in my apartment building to equal climbing the tallest building in the world (11 times up the 269 steps in my 12 story building), I can’t resist a challenge.
My latest challenge?
Visiting all 177 foreign embassies in DC as quickly as possible by bike.
Why Visit The Embassies?
I’ve lived in DC for over 5 years, but I have only seen the inside of a few embassies. Moreover, I’ve never valued (until now) how incredibly unique it is to live within single-digit miles of so many major foreign outposts.
D.C. is the only place in the world where this density and diversity of embassies exists and I wanted to take full advantage of that.
How Did I Do It?
Step 1: Get a List of All Embassies and Addresses
This was the easy part. Wikipedia makes it very simple to find the current-ish addresses of the 177 resident embassies. You’ll find out later that a few are off by a bit, but it’s a great start.
Step 2: Determine Rough Bike Route
This was a lot trickier than I thought. No free websites (that I could find) supported optimal route mapping through 177 distinct addresses. Even the paid websites cut off at 50 or 100 addresses and were surprisingly expensive.
Fortunately, Wikipedia also classified the embassies into neighborhoods. So I reduced the list of 177 distinct addresses down to 22 distinct neighborhoods.
But, I only had 20 free credits (argh!) on MyRouteOnline, which is very clearly not made for this purpose.
I removed 2 neighborhoods from my list that were close to others and a few uploads and clicks later, I had a route! (I then added back those two dropped neighborhoods manually, not shown below)
Step 3: Do the (Scary) Mental Math
From point to point with no deviation the route was projected to be about 25 miles and take about 2 hours (by car).
But, I knew the challenge would take much longer and by no means would this be point to point. Remember, I had 20 points on the map above, but 177 true waypoints (the embassies).
Not only would I be traveling by bike, I had to “find” each embassy (they aren’t all easy to locate) and I would need to optimize my route on the fly for each neighborhood.
Even if I only spent 5 minutes per embassy, this challenge would take 885 minutes or close to 15 hours (yikes!).
Step 4: Prepare the Paperwork
After I optimized the route as much as possible, it was time to get the tracking paperwork together ahead of the ride
Here is a link to my google doc if you want to save yourself the effort that I went through: Route for Visiting all 177 Washington, DC Embassies
6 pages of embassies to check off + 1 page with 23 neighborhoods (first and last neighborhood are my own).
This wasn’t going to be easy.
Step 5: Prepare the Gear
The good news was with a bike, I could lug a lot more gear with me than I could on my marathon run.
Focus on the positives.
In addition to the customary water, maps, phone, and wallet, I brought 4 Powerbars, AirPods, sunglasses, and a pen (it was very important to check these off as I went to keep my sanity).
I woke up early and left before 6am for the ride. After about 10 minutes, I had arrived in my first neighborhood (Dupont Circle) and began searching for my first 23 embassies there before the sun rose.
I’ll spare you all of the details of my 9 hours of riding, but here are the highlights and the lowlights of the challenge.
Hopefully these will make your trip (somewhat) easier and even more enjoyable than mine!
The Highlights of the Ride
- The Diversity of the Embassies
This is something I definitely should have expected, but honestly I did not. The diversity of the embassies, in size, in location, in style, was incredibly impressive.
I don’t think my photos do it justice, but seeing Panama’s stone “cottage” and Finland’s ultra-modern blueish-gray embassy over the course of one ride made it worth it!
2. Seeing All of DC in 10 Hours
When you visit 177 embassies and 21 neighborhoods in 9 hours, you really get a feel for DC.
I’ve lived here for over 5 years, but there’s nothing quite like traveling close to 60 miles over what felt like almost every street!
3. Planning the Ride!
As you can tell from the intro to this post, I nerded out optimizing my route and definitely could continue to nerd out optimizing it even further.
Like a vacation, a lot of the fun of a challenge is the anticipation and planning and asking: “Can I really do this?”
The Lowlights of the Ride
Nothing was worse on the ride than having to optimize my route on the fly when in a neighborhood.
I highly recommend mapping out each neighborhood individually to minimize backtracking.
After arriving in Dupont, Kalorama or Embassy Row, I tried to knock out embassies street by street, but several times, I found myself riding up the same hills again and again.
Haven’t I been on this road before?
2. Bad Data
Unfortunately, Wikipedia isn’t perfect and the addresses in the above data set are not all perfect.
However, I was able to react as I biked and Google Maps provided good backup for locating current embassy locations.
The Final Stats
Total Time: 8h 45m
Time per Embassy: 2m 58s
Distance Traveled: 58.9 miles
Average Speed (incl. stops): 6.7 mph
Pictures Of Every Embassy
Pictures of Every Embassy: Embassy Pictures