I liked the ride from Easton to Saint Marys to Tilghman Island so much that I wanted to go back and do it again. But I picked a bad day. The temperature was 91° (32.8℃) and the humidity seemed to match.
I left the house an hour earlier than last time and would be riding an hour earlier. I also modified my route to not go all the way to Tilghman’s Island but instead take another road to a tiny town named Neavitt. It is located at the southern terminus of Maryland Route 579 on the north bank of the Choptank River.
Unlike Tilghman’s Island, which has a gas station and a general store, there appeared to be no commercial businesses here. Just some private dock slips at the end of the road. In addition, the road to Neavitt had no shoulders to ride on in contrast to the road to Tilghman’s Island. But traffic was extremely light so that was not a problem.
The winds seemed stronger today than they were the last time I was here. The route was nearly identical. However, I was able to take a nature trail or bike trail out around the business center of Saint Michaels. It was pretty but even slower than sitting in traffic. I think.
On the way back I stopped just outside of Saint Michaels at Highs Dairy. This time I not only filled my water bottles but grabbed a Snickers. I love my energy chews but the chocolate candy bar was a welcome relief.
I turned onto the country road to the Oxford-Bellevue ferry. I now had a base time and hoped to better my time for a PR. But the winds were too strong or the heat and humidity were zapping me. Once I fell 15 seconds behind my pace I sat up and soft-pedaled to the ferry.
On the ferry were two cars. The nice couple in one car brought over an ice-cold bottle of water and offered it to me. I did not hesitate even though my water bottles were basically still full. I would need all the fluid I could get on this day and the cold water was refreshing.
I chose this day because my next available day, tomorrow, was a Wendesday. And the Scottish Highlands Creamery was closed on Wednesday as I learned my lesson the hard way. So I chose to ride in this heat and humidity for – ice cream.
It was bascially two blocks from where the ferry docked in Oxford to get ice cream. And suddenly all the riding in the heat and humidity were worth it.
The last 10 miles seemed to be downhill so maybe I was picking up some tailwind. I did go through one mile on a one-lane milled road under construction. But the ice cream seemed to fuel me just enough for the run-in back to start.
Today was a 50-mile ride instead of a 60-mile ride like last time. But it still left me pretty drained. But I love the ride and I really love the ferry. And ice cream. Must do this again.
DISTANCE: 50.7 miles SPEED: 16.7 mph WEIGHT: 172 pounds
Ultimately, this ride will simply be another day on the bike, another loop ride. It was done on flat to rolling roads in the heat. But it was the approach to the ride that has left me wondering.
It was in 2008 that the Tour of Pennsylvania came through this area. Officially, the name of the race was The American Eagle Outfitters’ Tour of Pennsylvania presented by Highmark Healthy High 5.
My drive here was on U.S. Rte 30 from Breezewood to Chambersburg and was it ever pretty. And mountainous. Descending off Tuscarora Summit there are two runaway truck ramps and not just one. I was thinking of the bike race of 14 years ago and can’t locate a race map for that stage from Camp Hill to Bedford.
The description for Stage 3 included Tuscarora Summit and Sideling Hill which are on U.S. Rte 30. What I can’t fathom is that the route stayed on Rte 30 through Breezewood. I can very carefully ride through Breezewood on my bike but for a race, you’re talking about shutting down the entire road. And not just any road. This is the intersection of Interstate-70. They would not shut down an Interstate Highway for a bike race. They must have turned off near the top of Sideling Hill and were able to divert around Breezewood.
But that is a beautiful road and very mountainous. The average speed of the winner, James Driscoll, was 39.62 kph, which was faster than David Velleux, the winner the following day into Latrobe (39.03). It’s hard to imagine that Stage 4 was slower than Stage 3 but it was.
While driving across these roads and not imagining that I would or could ride a bike here, I have ridden the mountains from Bedford to Ligonier on multiple occasions which were featured on Stage 4. Maybe someday I’ll ride Tuscarora Summit
But today I drove over these mountains to Chambersburg. I had found a route on RideWithGPS created by Franklin County Cyclists. It looks like it was a club ride and I would make one modification – two if I count the one I made at the finish.
The ride started in a church parking lot. On a weekday, I’m unsure if I wanted to park in an empty lot without permission. But on a Sunday, I really didn’t want to park in their lot while they were having church. I modified the start to be a shopping plaza next to the Giant (grocery). The high wall on the side of the building provided a perfect shade spot that a tree could not.
I started just one mile from the “official” start of the ride. The plaza was next to a Sheetz which was perfect for the pre-ride restroom. I did not make any modifications to the route so when I selected it on my Wahoo I simply had to select “Route to Start.”
Country. This was a 100%, well, 99% country ride. I was immediately in the country with the smells of cattle and corn. The roads were all lightly traveled and the traffic was 100% respectful.
There were no real climbs but plenty of ups and downs. But there was wind. A headwind would define most of the first half of the ride as it was a westerly wind.
There were no defining features such as a great bridge or tunnel. No summits with miles of views out over the valley below. I was in the valley. But there were nice valley views looking at the ridge of the mountain I had just driven over.
There was a nice park about four miles from the finish. Norlo Park in Guilford Twp. has three cabooses and what looks to be a minature railroad. I’m a sucker for things like this so I liked the placement of this park near the end.
I would characterize this as a valley ride. After all, I was in the Cumberland Valley. It wasn’t flat although there were flat stretches. But the constant rollers would start to wear on me although that was probably more the heat (90℉) and lack of nutrition. I went through two bottles I had on my bike, one filled with Skratch mix, and the other with water. I had one pack of Stinger Energy Chews. And that was it.
I thought around Mile 30 that I would stop at the next store and grab more water and a snack. But there was none. If I were to ride here again I would reverse the route. First, a reverse ride is a new ride. But more importantly, there was only the one store I saw on route. It was a Rutters gas/convenience store crossing US 30.
On today’s ride that came around Mile 18. Barely one hour into the ride it was too soon to stop. Or at least I thought. Is it ever too soon for a snack? And that was the only place I saw to stop. On the reverse course, that would be at Mile 28 and would be perfect.
I wasn’t 100% of the modification I might need to get back to my car. I could follow the route and then go back the mile to where I parked. As it turned out, the route as designed would have taken me to the plaza where I parked before going the last mile to the church parking lot.
With four miles to go, it started to rain slightly which was very welcome. But it wouldn’t stay with me. But fearful I could get soaked, and that would not be welcomed, I ended the prearranged route and selected “Route to Start” on my Wahoo. Unbeknownst to me, it would have been the same exact route except when I reached the plaza where I was parked I was finished instead of going the final mile to the church. But I felt more comfortable knowing I was routed to my car even if it was the same way.
Nice country ride. Maybe in my travels through or near here I will ride it again. In reverse.
DISTANCE: 45.7 miles SPEED: 14.7 mph TEMPERATURE: 90℉ WEIGHT: 173
I’m not sure why I picked this. I think I was looking at cycling on Kent Island and my eyes looked at the map and saw St. Michaels. I’ve certainly heard of it but never been there.
I saw Tilghman’s Island and thought I’d do a ride from St. Michaels to Tilghman’s. But that wasn’t far enough. A quick search for cycling St. Michaels and I found the Bellevue Ferry. I haven’t had a bike ride with a ferry since White’s Ferry on the Potomac closed. Using RidewithGPS I had my route. It was a 60-mile route from departing from Idlewild Park in Easton.
I was watching the weather for the week and planned to ride tomorrow (Thursday). But when I woke up this morning I looked at the next 36 hours and today presented a better chance of not getting caught in thunderstorms. I left home at 7:35 am.
The park is small but with adequate parking and restrooms. For almost all of the 60 miles, I could ride a dedicated shoulder away from the traffic lane. There were just a couple of pinch points before St. Michaels. In the town, I needed to take the lane. It’s a very charming town.
The 11 miles to from St. Michaels to Tilghman Island were on a dedicated shoulder lane until I came to the bridge in town. My GPS was showing “distance to next cue” and I was counting down miles to my turnaround point. So when I hit the bridge I was shocked to see 4.4 miles to the next cue.
I thought about turning around then but didn’t want to cut my ride short. The road south of Tilghman was a two-lane road with no shoulders. But there was no traffic either. I soon realized the next cue was back at the bridge. It was 2.2 miles to the end or turnaround. Actually, it wasn’t the very end of the island but appeared to be fenced off at that point.
What appeared to be the end of the road opened into what was a parking lot for fishermen.
I saw very little water on this ride which was disappointing only because in studying the map it looked like I would have water views for 60 miles. But while never very far away from the bay there was always woods or a cornfield. Lots of cornfields.
I turned it around and headed back towards the bridge in Tilghman’s Island before going back to St. Michaels. My decision was whether or not to stop for more water. I brought two bottles with me but still had most of one left. I passed a small country store and then saw a gas station store right by the bridge. I decided I was good until at least Saint Michaels.
It was a bit breezy if not windy. I thought I was fighting a headwind on my ride out but when I turned around I still had the wind hitting me. It was probably a cross-tail going out and a cross-head going back.
Once I got back to St. Michaels I thought about stopping for that extra water. The town is very charming but I had to go through it before I found a quick place to stop. It was a car wash/gas station. I got a bottle of water which filled 1.5 bottles. I didn’t think of it at the time but should have grabbed a Snickers bar too.
It was about two miles out of town before coming to the turn to the ferry. There was a sign and it was open.
It was about 4.5 miles on a two-lane road to the ferry.
I had no expectations about the ferry other than it would cost $4. It actually cost $6.
I arrived just as the ferry was ready to leave. There were two cars loaded and I rode my bike right up.
I rolled on taking notice of not to lean my bike against the bulkhead. What’s up with that?
There were two cars and two families on the boat. The ride probably took 12-15 minutes. Maybe less
I had read about this great creamery. For 50 miles I waited for that ice cream cone. I even told a couple on the ferry about it. When we docked I took off for the creamery forgetting to “resume” my GPS which I had paused to cross the river.
I studied the menu. Two scoops and you could mix them. I settled on Mint Chocolate Chip and then turned the doorknob to enter. It was locked.
Who closes an ice cream store on Wednesdays? This was so wrong.
No ice cream would make the nine-mile ride back to Easton a bit harder.
DISTANCE: 60 miles (50.5 via GPS; 0.5 not captured) SPEED: 17.5 mph (fastest ride of the year) WEIGHT: 174 pounds
The weather forecast for tomorrow for this region is for rain. I would have stayed in State College for the second day of the MS ride but this ride became a bucket list ride. I did not want to let a wet forecast ruin it. I moved my schedule ahead by a day and came here to ride.
I have never been on US 15 north of Williamsport, Pa. The drive was stunning. Heavily forested mountains. A beautiful lake near Tioga. It would be hard to find prettier scenery on my ride than I did on my drive.
I found a ride someone had done in RidewithGPS and downloaded that to my Wahoo head unit on my bike. I would follow his ride. I had a problem envisioning where to park and found an elementary school that I assumed would have plenty of parking. It did.
I chose Montour Falls because I had read that this was the town where the opening scenes of the Hallmark Channel’s mystery series, Aurora Teagarden, were shot. The actual shooting was in British Columbia but the opening scene or main street was here. It features a quaint downtown with a massive waterfall at the end of town.
I had visions of finding the town and the waterfall. I had no visions of finding Candace Cameron-Bure, the actress who plays Aurora Teagarden.
I only went a couple of blocks and there I was. Standing in front of a rock formation on a hillside. This was no waterfall. In fact, there was no water. Actually, once I looked close I could see a trickle. But it was as though someone turned off the falls. This was very disappointing. The only thing that would have been more disappointing was if I had saved this for the end of my ride and for 48 miles I was looking forward to seeing it. At least this way I got the disappointment out of the way quickly.
And now for the ride. Quaint downtown. I left Montour Falls via NY 14 which has a wide shoulder to ride safely. It’s about a three-mile flat ride to and through Watkins Glen. This is the tourist area of the region whereas Montour Falls has very little. At the end of the main drag, I came to the south end of Seneca Lake. The ride description was 20 miles of easy climbing followed by 20 miles downhill.
Actually, it was 1.5 miles of 3-4% grade leaving Watkins Glen to a plateau along the lake for five miles. Then it was turn to the west and gentle climbing for the next eight miles. The roads were mostly back roads with little to no traffic but there were “heavy” roads – tar and chip variety which makes pedaling harder.
Once the road started downhill so did the headwinds. I knew it would be that way because I enjoyed a nice tailwind leaving Watkins Glen. I was paying for it now. The traffic was mostly respectful but on one road it seemed every vehicle was a truck pulling a wide trailer with a race car on it. On a Sunday morning. Near Watkins Glen. Who knew?
The return back was on NY-14 again. And except for a couple of places getting squeezed, there was a should to ride safely. I changed my return to me directly to the car instead of the end of the route which would take me to the non-existent falls. I would have been so disappointed. But it was OK. It was a beautiful ride. Maybe next time there will be water in those falls.
The best rides aren’t so much where you’re at but who you’re with. And since 95% of my riding is solo I can classify the best solo rides are:
Point to point
Out and back
I’ve been riding the Keystone MS-150 Ride, more recently called the Glimcher Ride, since 2016 when it was basically two point-to-point days. The first day was Hollidaysburg to State College while the second day was State College to Hollidaysburg. The roads from Spruce Creek in and out of State College were the same but two completely different routes in and out of Hollidaysburg to and from Spruce Creek.
But this year it was in State College and it was a loop route each day. It’s not fun and too far for this traveler. I was willing to travel to Altoona from Virginia but this was too much. I had signed up for the event before I realized it was no longer starting in Hollidaysburg.
Lodging and the headquarters were at the Penn Stater. I registered after the special MS rate expired (rate good until …) and was priced out of staying in State College. I chose to stay with my mother in Somerset the night before which is 1:45 away.
The alarm went off at 4:40 a.m. No snooze. I was gone by 4:50 and stopped at Sheetz for ice for my cooler and a breakfast sandwich. I arrived at the Penn Stater at 6:45 a.m. for the start of the ride.
I dressed in the car and got my bike ready to roll before I went to registration. At 6:55 a.m. I was putting on my “race” number. I went to the back of riders waiting at the start thankful they didn’t roll out at 7:00 a.m. At 7:08 we all rolled. I was on time.
There were five rest stops and this captured my ride to each. On the rollout, we came to a red light with cars waiting to enter the intersection. I stopped. Two riders from Blair Bicycle Club blew threw it. It was a bad look and unsafe. I yelled, “it’s a ride, not a race.“
Once I got the green light I quickly caught them and a number of others. I’m sure the front group was long gone but I picked my way through a number of riders before finding four riders wearing Quality of Life jerseys from Mechanicsburg, Pa. I didn’t join them but followed at 20-30 yards behind.
I wasn’t long at rest #1 which was the church with the famous cookie stop. Still cookies. I took one Snickerdoodle. I left rest #1 and found myself in cyclists’ “no man’s land.” I could see no one in front or no one behind me. I actually liked that. A lot.
I passed a John Deere tractor and regretted not stopping for a photo. After a descent and the turn to Camp Kanesatake, I turned around and went back up the hill. I got my photo and saw some riders pass. I didn’t try to join them but still passed 2-3 before the stop at Camp Kanestake.
This church camp had been the Saturday lunch from Hollidaysburg to State College coming at Mile 50. And the ice cream and Dairy Princess stop on Sunday. But today it was just a snack stop. I didn’t stay long.
Again in no man’s land, I was gaining on a rider in Spruce Creek. And then a funny thing happened. At the end of Spruce Creek, he went straight which was the route we always took on Day 2 back to Hollidaysburg. But I had downloaded the route from the MS-150 website and it had me turning left, under the railroad tracks then climbing the two-mile hill. I was alone. Again.
I suspect they made a late change to the official route. This was one intersection that needed a volunteer to show people like me the correct way. But it’s OK. I enjoyed my solo ride. It added 2.5 miles to the ride.
Rest stop 3 was a lunch stop at St. John’s Evangelical Church. I overheard a couple of riders describing when and where they “burned matches.” Oh please. They’re not pros doing a non-stop 3-week effort. But they can dream, I guess.
Leaving rest #3 I caught the four green riders. I didn’t join them but simply followed at a distance and paced behind them. And then a group caught and passed us. This group could have been Team Fat Belly including a couple on touring bikes with bar end shifters. But they were moving as they passed out. We formed a large group for about one mile then came to a hill. And that was the end of Team Fat Belly. I was nose breathing but passed all on a climb. Three of the four from Team Green went ahead and I simply followed at 50 yards.
Rest 4 seemed to be for the 50 and 75 routes. Rest stops 2 and 3 were just on course for the 75-mile riders. I stopped, briefly. And it would be a solo ride home from there.
I caught a rider before Rest 5 which was also the cookie stop for Rest 1. After a quick water bottle refill and then it was solo back to start. A moto caught me to tell me there was one hill left (which I knew). But he was a nice guy giving encouragement, I guess. I passed a young guy walking his bike up the last hill and passed 5-6 others as well.
I finished then took off my jersey to go under the empty finishing arch again, this time holding the bib that “I rode for my daughter.” I took off the bib and discovered I spelled “daughter” wrong. That’s what happens at 6:50 am.
At the finish, there was no food or meal. They told us there were snacks next door which were veggies and Fritos. There was no banquet this year. It was so good in 2019 when Diane Kramer and two other women spoke. Back in 2019, I had asked at our table of ten what each person’s connection to MS was. No one had one other that this was a nice ride. That dinner brought home the message. Today there was nothing. On the ride, not a single person asked me about riding for my daughter. It didn’t seem to be an MS ride. It was just another ride.
So in the end, I asked for the swag. Although it was to be handed out tomorrow (t-shirt and plastic “medal,” I told the nice volunteer that I was only riding today. I did not tell her it would be my last day with this ride but it was. For me, it’s too far. Too expensive. Boring loop routes (been there done that). Registration seemed way down (124) and I’m guessing many Pittsburgh riders that came to Altoona found State College too far.
Next up will be an MS ride, just not this one. Maybe Florida. Maybe Virginia or Maryland. Or maybe even the Escape to the Lake. I support the fight against MS but I’m not leaving this event. It left me.
DISTANCE: 78.8 miles SPEED: 16.5 mph WEIGHT: 175 lbs
While it was an MS Ride, something HUGE happened on the ride. I went over 90,000 miles ridden cancer-free. Since 2010. Thankful for every day of LIFE!
I had seen the Sachs Bridge a couple of years ago on a social media post and decided I should ride that bridge someday. That someday came today.
It was only a few weeks ago that Michele posted a three-covered bridge ride in Frederick Co., Maryland. I couldn’t make the original date but rode it the day before on my own. It was beautiful except for the four miles of getting in and out of Frederick which was a bit sketchy with traffic. But the roads and scenery are great.
The original ride was postponed due to weather and the next week I jumped in with the original group. Six of us rode the three-bridge route. I was the only one that had ridden it before and they seemed to appreciate someone with knowledge of the route being along for the ride.
My own bit of adventure involves finding a route someone else has ridden, downloading it to my Wahoo bike computer, and following the roads. Even more adventuresome is simply mapping out a route and taking my chances.
The big problem in this adventure-seeking is one does not know the surface/condition of the roads or the traffic. We try to alleviate this by avoiding major roads and then we cross our fingers and hope the route is good.
I was coming home from an Ohio trip and made a diversion to Thurmont which is only 12 miles north of Frederick. I parked at the Thurmont Community Park which has restrooms. I was ready to roll out by 8:00 a.m. on a day in which temperatures were to reach the high 90s.
I headed out of town on what are now familiar roads. At 3.5 miles out of town, I had mapped out a left turn on what I learned was a dirt farm road. I kept going past it. No problem. I took the roads I knew to Creagerstown and to the first bridge of my new three-bridge ride, Loys Station Bridge.
Having been here twice in the last month there was no need to stop for a photo op other than to grab a quick photo. Then it was headed north on new roads.
The roads are so nice here. The pavement is mostly excellent and these roads have so little traffic. A guy on a Trek Emonda caught me and we rode together for about two miles. He was headed to the Catoctin Mountains and then back to Frederick. I was headed north. When I told him I was from Virginia and stopped just for a ride he said “I like that. I really like that.”
At Simmons Road (MP 15) where it crosses Toms Creek, he said “I bet you turn right up here.” I said, “yep.” I turned and that was the last I saw of him.
All the roads were great. At MP 21 I crossed into Pennsylvania with no signs. I mean, there wasn’t a “Welcome to Pennsylvania” sign. I saw the pavement had changed and I noticed the first parked cars at a farm with Pennsylvania plates.
At MP 26 I crossed US Rte 15 via an overpass. The next mile carried slightly heavier traffic into Gettysburg (three miles farther) but I turned off after one mile. I went through part of the hallowed ground that makes up Gettysburg National Military Park.
I was on Millerstown Road. This was a road I had ridden from the opposite direction five times in the Civil War Century. Instead of following the road as it became Pumping Station Road, I turned onto Red Rocks Road followed by Water Works Road.
Water Works Road has an old bridge with bollards to keep vehicle traffic off it. I could and did cross on my bike. That took me to the Sachs Covered Bridge. And what a bridge it was.
Built in 1852, it is one of the longest bridges in Pennsylvania. It is in great condition (rebuilt after a flood) but only open to foot and bicycle traffic.
At MP 30 I was 60% done with my ride but also felt that it was pretty much over. The highest point was yet to come but this was rolling terrain and not mountainous. But each little rise would take its toll in the heat.
The transition back to Maryland was the same as entering Pennsylvania. Pavement change. Different license plates. And that was it.
I approached Emmitsburg and for a moment it looked like a scene out of France. A winding road next to a field. Off in the distance, the churches of Emmitsburg formed the skyline. I needed a French croissant.
Actually, with only 11 miles to go, I needed water. I rolled through downtown looking for a convenience store but didn’t pass any although they have them. I didn’t worry about it because I knew that Roddy Road Bridge had a park.
When I got to the park I discovered they had no water. Just a picnic shelter and a port-a-john. Or outhouse. Whatever. It was just 2.5 miles to the car from there. Suck it up.
I got back to the car where I had a cooler packed from my trip. In it was ice-cold water and ice-cold Coke Zero. I was refreshed.
EPILOGUE – I did not research the history of Sachs Bridge before I rode. It is routinely listed as the most or one of the most haunted sites in Gettysburg or among bridges. Three Confederate soldiers were hanged here and are said to frequent the bridge and visitors. Users can do their own search.
It was one week ago that I thought about the upcoming International Ride of Silence. I have attended a couple in Rockville, Maryland, and was at one in Dayton, Ohio. But I thought we should have something in Virginia.
I checked the website and only saw a ride at Radford. Nothing in northern Va. Nothing in Richmond or Roanoke. Nothing in Virginia Beach. Wow.
I decided to organize one. With little publicity we had six riders come out to our FIRST Ride of Silence. I wasn’t a novice at organizing rides. Nine years ago I had organized a “Tribute Ride.”
We met at C.D. Hylton High School. I chose this location because it is the site where Joseph James Callahan was killed in September 2013. He was riding on the bike trail in front of the school when a 17-year-old girl drove off the road, struck, and killed him. We rode for Joseph Callahan.
I also bought new flags for his makeshift memorial. The school has let it remain on the property for eight years and I’m afraid without maintenance they may remove it.
The program was simple. We wore black armbands in honor and memory of those who have lost their lives to drivers. We wore red if we have been struck by a vehicle. Half our riders wore red. Read that again.
I opened the “program” with remarks about the Ride of Silence. I spoke about Joseph Callahan and then about Jamie Roberts. We opened our circle to recognize anybody. Chelsea Johnson led us in The Ride of Silence poem.
Tonight we number many but ride as one In honor of those not with us, friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, sons With helmets on tight and heads down low, We ride in silence, cautious and slow The wheels start spinning in the lead pack But tonight we ride and no one attacks The dark sunglasses cover our tears
Chelsea was with Jamie when she was killed in Kentucky in 2014. Chelsea spoke about how Jamie lived!
At 7:00 p.m. we rolled out. The route was simple – an 11-mile counterclockwise route of Spriggs Road (bike path), Hoadly Road (shoulder), Dumfries Road (bike path), Minnieville Road (bike path), and back to Spriggs Road.
After the event riders were invited to Armetta’s for a post-ride celebration and reflection. This will be the first and many rides to come.
It started on Twitter although it has been asked many times. Why do cyclists ride on the road or in the street when there’s a perfectly fine bike trail available? This time it was posed by Mark Kaboly, Senior Writer for The Athletic covering the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This could be an honest question wondering what decision-making goes into the process for a cyclist to choose the road. More likely it was a passive-aggressive shot at cyclists for daring to use the road. And it got the desired responses.
I know better than to engage in a “discussion” (argument) on Twitter but wanted to use the forum to answer the question myself. I don’t know the stretch of road in question but there are plenty of road/trail choices in Virginia I have to make every day.
I remember in 2012 when I rode more than 5,000 miles without a crash or fall over except for one. It was on the bike path on Rte 234 when a small dog on a leash crossed my path. I swerved right into the ditch to miss the dog and its owner. The overcrowding, slow traffic, and unpredictability of trail users add to the dangers one encounters.
Like today, on the trail on Va. Rte 123, I came to the shopping center. A car was coming out just as his light had turned red and the ped-head (for the trail) and the traffic light were green. I inched out watching him. His head was turned hard left to see if he could beat that traffic while making a right turn on red. I was in the intersection and he almost hit me without looking. These trail crossings are very dangerous.
And that was my response to Mark and just a couple of the responses. To continue reasons why cyclists may not take the trail:
7. Maintenance on the trails is almost non-existent. They build them once and then forget about them Many develop huge cracks, cracks enough to swallow a skinny tire or cause an inexperienced cyclist to crash. In addition, some trails, especially the Mount Vernon Trail south of Alexandria, are so rooted they are almost impossible to ride but that trail sure looks nice when you’re driving by on the George Washington Parkway.
Maybe the most egregious are the sewer pipes that extend above trail level. These can cause a serious accident yet the county merely paints them.
8. Cyclists may want to take the road because it’s faster than a trail. Bikes are transportation and a cyclist may need to get to an appointment on time – just like a driver.
9. A cyclist may be wanting or need the cardio benefits of riding hard and not easy. Worst are the trails on Hilton Head Island which weave around trees and are popular with our little cyclists. But for exercise value, these offer little compared to the street.
10. Strava. Yes, there is worldwide competition to be the fastest in a certain segment between two points. For many segments, the fastest route is on the road.
So there are 10 reasons a cyclist may choose to ride on the trail. Ultimately the decision is up to the cyclist, not a driver.
Near Little Orleans, Maryland on a backcountry road last week there was one car on the road. Behind me. The driver pulled beside me and yelled for me to go ride on the bike trail. What he didn’t know was the Western Maryland Rail Trail ends at the Indigo Tunnel but drivers see an unconnected segment at Little Orleans and assume it is one contiguous trail. It isn’t.
In my mind, I yelled at him to drive on the Interstate. And he told me he has the right to drive where he wants. Exactly. And we have the right to ride where we want (subject to restrictions such as super-highways). But that was in my mind only. We’re just not at the point that drivers understand that cyclists can choose where to ride. Sometimes it is on a trail and sometimes it is on the road even when the trail is available.
It was 1974 when I first drove National Highway (aka U.S. Rte 40) up and over Sideling Hill. It is a four-mile climb and my little car struggled to go up in 4th gear. Well, it never did. Sometimes third gear and always downshifting to second gear to take the horseshoe curve at the top.
Interstate-68 was constructed and finished, at least parts, by 1991. It which followed some of old US 40. The most impressive feature on I-68 is the cut in the mountain so the highway could go through a gap instead of crossing all the way over the top.
There are only a handful of crossings over this ridge. One of those in Pennsylvania near Breezewwod is now the Abandoned Turnpike. The tunnel is one that I have ridden through probably a dozen or so times.
But today would be about the climb. I parked at the C&O Canal parking lot in Hancock. I began with a short climb and the first four miles of the profile looked like sharks’ teeth. At Mile 4 the climb began.
Although the speed limit was 55 (or was it 50?) mph the very few cars all gave me wide berth. Or often it wasn’t necessary as there was a wide shoulder I could use although it still had some winter dirt in the lane.
This was my first real use of the new display of my Wahoo. As it displayed the profile of the climb each section was color-coded as to grade. That was pretty cool.
I didn’t race up the climb but kept a steady pace. I concentrated on remaining seated as I often pop out of the saddle more than most cyclists. I would say this was relatively easy. I also left room for improvement if I would do this again.
Once over the top and a quick stop at the scenic overlook, I began the descent and squeezed the brakes. It was windy, the road, while straight, wasn’t smooth, and there was a sharp turn-off just one mile down the mountain. Once on McFarland Road, I needed to squeeze the brakes a bit tighter. The road was steeper, 10% in many parts, and technical (lots of curves).
I had mapped out a Pennsylvania portion and followed High Germany Road. It was only two miles to the state line but it was more climbing to the Mason-Dixon Line. The border was not marked other than by a Fulton County sign.
I turned onto a gravel country road which was okay because I expected some gravel. I did not know this road was not it. A review of the map shows this wasn’t supposed to be gravel. It should have been paved (according to the map).
And then things started to unravel. I followed Buck Valley Road and my computer indicated to bear left which was a gravel road. I chose to stay on pavement until Wahoo was determined for me to make a hard left up a gravel road.
It was sketchy and I was going deeper into the woods. I came to Sideling Hill Creek and there was no bridge. No crossing. Wahoo wanted me to follow a hunting trail but I turned around.
I was a little bit lost and a little bit scared. I was out of food and my water was low. I hoped for a cell signal enough to find a map and was able to get one. I could see the route I needed to get me to Orleans.
When I came to the climb to Town Hill I decided to forgo it. Wahoo said my next turn, here, was in three miles so I knew the climb was 1.5 miles. My legs didn’t have it. I was beat up from 3500’ of gain in 25 miles. Since it was an up and back, or up and down, I decided to skip it and head back to Hancock.
The Orleans Road was delightful. It was six miles but I don’t remember any traffic. The first three miles were rollers followed by a delightful three-mile downhill. It was probably a 4-5% downhill – not too fast where I needed to touch the brakes. It was the most enjoyable part of the ride.
I came to Orleans and passed Bill’s place. I recognized it from my Pittsburgh to D.C. trip in 2004. I had planned my day on stopping here for lunch and I picked the week he took his summer fishing vacation. And it was closed. Today there were two cyclists here, outside. It may have been closed today too although more likely they were just milling around before leaving.
I had mapped to follow New Germany Road and the one-mile climb away from the Potomac River did not look very appealing compared to the alternative. The alternative was the smooth-as-silk Western Maryland Rail Trail extension. I hadn’t been this far and hoped that I would have 18 miles of paved trail back to Hancock.
I jumped on the trail and went the wrong way. Not crazy. I just wanted to see how far it would go in the opposite direction. Not far was the answer. It was less than a mile (0.8) when it came to the Potomac River. There is a beautiful bridge here waiting to be converted to trail use but it looks like it might remain closed forever. Apparently, West Virginia, on the other side of the bridge, is not real thrilled about spending money expanding the trail into the Mountain State.
After turning around I followed the trail a mile and a half where it ended at the Indigo Tunnel. A ramp takes users down to the C&O Canal Towpath where one must ride a little more than two miles to pick up the rail trail again.
Paving the trail and opening it through the tunnel seems like a simple proposition. Except there is a colony of endangered bats that live in the tunnel. So for now the bats win and that’s okay with me.
Except that I was riding a road bike today and the towpath is the towpath. Suggestion to the National Park Service. How about paving the two miles of the twopath so the users of the rail trail will have a paved trail the entire way?
One back on the trail it was familiar territory. When I first started riding this trail the eastern portion was very rooted. This is from Hancock (MP 10) to Big Pool (MP 0). That was the first section completed. The western section, up to MP 22, was newer and the tree roots had not started peeking through the surface of the trail. That has changed in the last few years and today it was very rooted, especially near MP 20.
But it was sure nice to have almost 30 miles of flat after all the climbing. The legs were sore but I avoided any mechanicals or crashes. Life is good!
IF I do this ride again. Pennsylvania is still doable but must stick to all pavement. Skip Schultz road by staying on High Germany Road to Harmonia Road. That probably would add 1.5 miles. Then stay on Buck Valley Road. There are no gravel shortcuts here. Lastly, make the climb to Town Hill B&B for the best views around. And take High Germany Road out of Little Orleans. It is a one-mile climb but followed by great downhills before merging back with the WMRT. It also avoids riding on the canal.
I enjoyed this ride so much last year I wanted to do it again. And this time I invited, Margaret, one of our Roosters Racing, Inc. team to come and join me as well.
In the Everglades, we headed off on the tram trail. I thought that this wasn’t the best season to see alligators but we would make this work. Actually, it was a great time.
I misremembered when I was here last. It was March 2021. In other words, the same time as I rode last year by two weeks. That wouldn’t make much of a difference.
I thought that I rode earlier in the day last year but a check of the GPS file shows I started about the same time on both rides (1:00-1:30 p.m.).
Last year there were some alligators on the side of the trail. This year it seemed they were all hiding. But in the end, it was probably about the same as last year. In reading this is probably the best time of the year. It is still dry season and not overly hot. In the summer the gators are more submerged as they try to escape the hear.
I love this ride. The key is to not go too fast. Slow down and enjoy the roses. Or alligators. I probably saw 15-20 alligators.
We rode and I called out “gator!” I don’t think Margaret was thrilled about seeing them. At least I can say for sure she wasn’t as thrilled as I was about seeing them. I loved seeing the gators.
The ride is a 15-mile loop. Both years I rode in a counter-clockwise direction. Most of the gators can be seen on the portion going out to the observation tower and not much coming back.
I enjoy this ride so much. Will I do it again? I hope so.