Weiser River Trail, Weiser, Idaho, June 22 and 23

Selfie on Spruce Trestle (Front: Cristen,
Back: Cheryl, Martha, Joyce)

Though not a hall of fame Rail to Trail, the 86-mile Weiser River Trail was well worth the effort to ride. It was recommended to me by my brother Curt, who lives in Boise, who had heard about it on the news and thought that it sounded like something Martha and I would like to do. So we started planning the trip about a year ago, trying to figure out the best time of year to do the trail to avoid the late snow falls and the summer heat, plus avoid the goat heads, which we had heard were so rough on the bike tires. Since Curt’s daughter Cristin and Martha’s friend Cheryl also wanted to do the ride with us, we had to negotiate a weekend around all our schedules. We picked the third weekend in June, and it turned out to be a VERY GOOD choice, as the weather was wonderful. It was sunny but not hot.

George’s Cycles, Boise

As usual, Martha did a terrific job planning the logistics of where to stay and eat and how to shuttle ourselves and the bikes to and from the trail each morning and evening. (She had even read the blogs to figure out where some bathroom breaks could be taken, which were few and far between.) For the bike rentals, I had been in Boise the month before, and Cristin and I had checked out the bike possibilities. Cheryl wanted an e-assist bike, but the others of us did not. However, we were quite picky when it came to the height of the handlebars and the comfort of the seat cushion. Our choice of George’s Cycles on 3rd and Front Street provided us with just the bikes we wanted at a reasonable price, actually costing less than what Martha had been seeing in her Internet searches. Frank, one of the co-managers of the store, let Cristin and me take a trial ride over on the Boise Greenbelt bikeway to try out the bikes. They were Comfort bikes, not mountain bikes, so some of the employees at the store thought the ride would be a bit rough on the tires, but Frank thought we would be okay. So we rented the Comfort bikes with the higher handle bars to save our backs and necks from the strain of leaning forward the whole ride. When we picked up the bikes on Friday afternoon before the ride, they included a panier rack on two of the bikes, which turned out to be a much-desired asset for our lunches and extra shirt from the morning coolness, and the employee gave us a lesson on how to change the tire on a bike with disc brakes. Fortunately, we didn’t need to do that, but the precaution was important to us, as having a flat tire was our greatest worry on this ride.

Cristen & Joyce Riding on Top Portion of Trail

The reason for the worry was that we had heard from several people about these little thorns on the Weiser River Trail called “goat heads” that cause many a flat tire. We were told to stay near the middle of the trail, rather than riding the edges, and not to ride in July or August because that is when the plant seems to be the most dangerous for bikers.

Now that we have ridden the trail, I can see why there is such a possibility of flat tires, not only from the goat heads but also from all the surface rocks, gravel might be the better term, that cover lots of the trail. The surface is supposed to be a packed crushed limestone, dirt, and gravel combination, but much of the trail has lots of small gravel pieces strewn across it like chopped nuts on an ice cream sundae. At least that’s what I kept seeing when I looked down.

And look down we did. The trail was pretty rough, so we really had to watch where we were going. It was one of our slowest rides also, averaging only 7.5 miles per hour. We rode the trail from north to south, so there was a slight elevation drop (mostly on the first day) and hardly any uphill, but it still was slow because of the trail surface. Patches of pavement in the two small towns along the way were like a ride in heaven, and we even welcomed patches of just dirt as long as it was packed, which it mostly was.

Joyce on Bridge near New Meadows

The scenery was the best part of the trail. This first day reminded me of parts of the upper part of the Michelson Trail in South Dakota and the Bizz Johnson trail in northern California. It was beautiful woodsy scenery. We started at the trail head in New Meadows, just southwest of McCall, Idaho, riding through forest areas of pine and hardwood, with wooden trestles over the streams flowing into the river. We didn’t see a whole lot of the river on this day because we were mostly in the forest, but we were seeing scenery that couldn’t be seen from anywhere else except the trail, and that was important to us. There was one detour because of a trail bridge being out, where we rode along a dirt/gravel road for a ways, but even that was a pretty ride. On this first day I think we saw two other riders on the trail. We rode into the little town of Council for a picnic lunch at a picnic table near the historical railroad marker and old-timey tractors in the park area. After a short break for lunch, we rode on down past the Mundo Hot Springs area to end the day and pick up our truck in Cambridge, Idaho.

View from Elkhorn B&B

So how did the truck get to Cambridge? Here are the logistics of our non-riding life: Martha and Cheryl had rented a truck in Boise, into which we loaded our bikes at George’s and drove 1.5 hours to Weiser where we had dinner at Legends on Main, a decent enough restaurant for a small western town, and then drove another hour to Mesa, to the Elkhorn B & B. There was a fiddler festival going on in Weiser, but we didn’t see any action in our drive through town that particular evening. When we arrived at the B & B, Debra, our hostess, met us (actually her friend met us at the gate to let us into the property) and showed us our rooms in her home. This was Martha’s choice of lodging, and she did a great job of picking it out. A little pricey, but compared to the other accommodations nearby, it was the best! After we each got settled in our respective rooms, Martha and Sheryl took the truck to Cambridge, following Deb in her truck, and after they parked at a Frontier Motel in town (parking pre-arranged by Martha), Deb drove them back to the B & B. When they got back, Cristin and I had already gone to bed, rather early because we needed to get going early in the morning. On Saturday, after a full hot breakfast, which was delicious, Deb drove us the hour north to the trail head and made sure we were off to a good start. About 9 something we were off!

The original plan was to stop at Mundo Hot Springs after the ride, on the way back to Mesa, and possibly go for a relaxing dip into the pool, but once we arrived there and actually saw that it looked just like a regular swimming pool and not a “romantic” adventure, we decided instead to just get a cool drink and head on back to the Elkhorn B&B.

Goats @ Elkhorn B & B

“Back at the ranch,” our hostess Deb gave us a tour of her goats and mules and dogs and was an entertaining talker throughout the tour and throughout her delicious dinner, so it was an experience! She has quite a lifetime of experiences. We decided we could postpone leaving as early in the morning as Martha’s itinerary said, because the weather was not as hot as expected, so after a while we went to bed, planning to awake at 7 the next morning and leave at 8 or 8:30 a.m. Because Sheryl had decided not to ride the next day, we didn’t have to do any shuttling of the truck down to Weiser, which saved us a lot of time that evening and made for a less hectic schedule. It would have been nice for Sheryl to have completed the entire trip, but she really wanted to drive to McCall and see what that was like, and in addition she said her butt was very sore in spite of all the gel cushions on the bike seat. After another nice hot breakfast prepared by Deb, Sheryl drove us back to Cambridge where we had left the trail last night, and we were on our way once more.

View of Weiser River from Trail

After riding this part for an hour or so, we were glad Cheryl had decided not to ride today because it was REALLY bumpy with the gravel surface, and the ride might have been just agony for her. The scenery today was totally different from yesterday, and that was great. Almost the entire time we were following the Weiser River in what were termed canyons, though the mountains on either side weren’t really steep, but we were very close to the river and seeing a perspective that could not be seen from anywhere but the trail. That was a good point. We stopped at another little town, Midvale, for a bathroom break, and Martha and Cristin went into a nearby market for food and drink and were able to get us a published map brochure of the trail. Then we rode on.

Joyce & Cristen in Canyon

This day was not a good one for Martha, with the first mishap being her cell phone dropping out of her pocket. Lucky that Cristin was a bit behind her and noticed it laying on the trail and stopped to pick it up. Then Martha accidentally slipped down a short embankment when she came to a stop at a wooden bridge, getting some scratches on her legs, but that was nothing compared to the dog bite that she got farther down the trail when she stopped to talk to a friendly man on a horse who was making a journey from Washington to New Mexico and happened to be on the trail at that time. She didn’t see the dog beneath her feet, stepped on his paw, and got bit in return. That led to consternation about rabies possibility and the current status of her tetanus shots, which led her to become very frustrated at the whole situation, especially when she had no cell service and couldn’t get hold of her husband to vent her concerns. But as I said, she survived. She’s a trooper. (epilogue comment: when we arrived in Boise to turn the bikes in, she went to an urgent care in Boise and got anti-biotic treatment and a tetanus shot and was able to go on to her trip with Sheryl to Stanley, Idaho, go hiking there, and have a good time) At times the trail today was mostly dirt and not gravel, which was fine with us, as we were a little tired of the bouncing and possibility of falling. Like I said, this was one of the roughest trails we have ridden but also one of the prettiest in terms of scenery.

Joyce with Zebra near Presley

For the last eleven miles of the trail, after a picnic lunch at a picnic table that sort of appeared out of nowhere from our point of view, we rode on the almost-parallel paved road which conveniently crossed the trail just before the trail got really bad. Martha had read about the poor upkeep of the trail these last eleven miles, so we were prepared to deviate from the purity of the trail, but what she didn’t tell us was how much elevation change was involved with the road part. It was a lot of up and down, good for the heart and lungs going up the hills, and fun going down the hills, and the best part was that it was paved. On this part of the trail we also rode past the zebra farm where we stopped to take a zebra selfie picture and enjoy the oddity of a zebra in Idaho. Then we rode on into Weiser on the paved road, passed the end of the actual trail in town, and met Cheryl at a pre-arranged spot in town to load the bikes onto the truck and call it a good journey.

Finished off with the ride back to Boise eating a McDonald’s strawberry shake, which hit the spot. We had a good time together, and personally I’m really glad Cristin was able to come with us, since it was her dad, my brother, who had recommended the trail. Therefore, I dedicate this blog to him. Thanks, Curt, for the suggestion of the Weiser River Trail. It helped Cristin and me become closer by sharing the experience.

Weiser River Trail, Cambridge to Weiser (40 miles)

Left to Right: Cristen, Joyce, Martha, and Cheryl @ Elkhorn B&B

I slept soundly until the sunlight peeked through the loft window a little after 5:30 AM. I decided to pack and to get dressed before heading downstairs to see if Debra needed help with breakfast. Our goal was to eat breakfast at 6:30 AM and to get on the trail by 8:00 AM. After another big breakfast with enough leftovers to pack for lunch, we loaded up the truck, took a few photos and told Debra goodbye. I felt like we made a new friend, and I hope we will stay in touch.

Since Cheryl decided to sightsee in McCall today instead of biking the remainder of the trail, she dropped us off in Cambridge and planned to pick us up at 2:30 PM in Weiser, the southern terminus of the trail. We started riding at 8:30 AM (just 30 minutes behind schedule) under mostly sunny skies with noticeably warmer temperatures than the previous day. Although I left the B&B wearing a lightweight jacket, I decided that it was warm enough to leave the jacket in the truck.

Mesa beyond Weiser River

The trail from Cambridge to Midvale (MP 32) passed through open meadows along the grassy banks of the Weiser River. On the east side of the river, we noticed small flat-topped hills or mesas in the distance. This portion of the trail was pretty hardpacked, and I really enjoyed the long-range views and the smell of honeysuckle growing along the trail. The lush greenery supported cattle grazing along both sides of the river, and we passed through a few cattle gates before entering the desert canyon below Midvale.

Midvale Market

It took about an hour to bike the ten miles from Cambridge down to Midvale, and we took a short break to buy some cold drinks at the Midvale Market. While in the market, we were delighted to finally find printed maps of the Weiser River Trail. After fastening the drinks onto the rear carrier of my bike, we started pedaling south toward the longest remote stretch of the trail between Midvale (MP32) and Presley (MP 10), approximately 22 miles. This stretch of the trail runs along a ridge through a desert canyon.

Entrance to Canyon

Initially, I was awestruck by the drastic change in scenery, and I enjoyed looking at the sagebrush and watching the rushing river below; however, the higher we climbed, the more treacherous the loose rocks and gravel became. I needed to consciously focus on the trail directly in front of me; otherwise, I might hit a rock, lose my balance, and careen down the steep bank into the river. I decided to pass Joyce & Cristen so that I could video the canyon and focus more on the trail.

Honeysuckle on Trail

About halfway to Presley, as I crossed over a small bridge, I noticed a cowboy on a horse getting water in the river below. My bike startled the horse, and it bucked. The cowboy quickly got the horse under control and rode up the bank to the trail where I apologized profusely. I asked whether I could pet his beautiful dapple grey horse while he began to tell me that he was riding from near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to Santa Fe, New Mexico, a distance of more than 1,000 miles. Someone had recommended the Weiser River Trail for this part of his journey because it was remote and would give his horse a break from walking along the highway. As we continued to talk about his adventure, I observed that he was carrying a revolver in a holster and a large knife. I also noticed that he was probably in his late 60s or early 70s, well dressed, clean shaven, and had well-organized saddlebags strapped to an expensive saddle. He explained that he rides about 20 miles a day and camps out under the stars or in barns along his route.

Joyce & Cristen Riding in Canyon

When Cristen & Joyce caught up to us, I explained to them what had happened and Cristen offered to give the cowboy one of our maps. As I walked over to hand the map up to the cowboy, I accidentally stepped on his dog’s sore paw. The small dog yelped and then bit me twice on the ankle. Ouch! The cowboy apologized and seemed surprised that his dog bit me. I tried to make up with the dog, but he whimpered over to the other side of the horse and out of my reach. Instinctively, I asked whether the dog had his shots; although the cowboy tried to assure us that the dog was fine and healthy, we later concluded that we really didn’t think he knew whether the dog was current on his shots. I wiped the bite area down with antibacterial wipes and later made a trip to the Urgent Care in Boise where they cleaned the wound, gave me a tetanus shot and wrote a prescription for antibiotics in case of infection. The doctor assured me that only 1.5% of all rabies cases originate in dogs and since the dog was simply defending himself, he did not think rabies was a concern.

Kayakers on Weiser River below Trail

I was a little shaken by the incident but got back on my bike and rode at a faster pace to keep my mind off the pain (both physical and emotional) of the bite. Ironically, within a few minutes, I encountered a small silvery snake slithering across the trail. I swerved to miss the snake but it darted underneath my tires. I lifted my feet in the air in case he tried to bite me and tried desperately to not to run over him. Fortunately, he continued moving toward the grass so I don’t think I hurt him. At this point, I got off my bike and tried to regain my composure. I hate snakes, and I had really hoped that we would not see one, regardless of whether it was poisonous or not 🙂 .

Resuming our ride, we passed a small campsite on the left side of the trail with a picnic table. I spoke to a young couple at the campsite who explained that they had also started in West Pine on the previous day and were headed south to Weiser. I continued pedaling a few miles south and encountered an injured rider resting on the right side of the trail. Apparently, he had slipped in the loose gravel and skinned up his leg, so he stopped to put on some antibiotic cream and to wrap his leg with gauze. This reminded me that we should carry a first aid kit with us on our bike rides 🙂 Besides the cowboy, these were the only people that we saw on the trail for 40 miles!

Picnic Table @ Presley Trailhead

As we approached Presley (MP 10), I suggested that we ride the remaining 10 miles to Weiser on the dirt/paved road. Several of the blogs that I had previously read recommended this road because the lower portion of the trail was reported to be sandy with loose gravel, which make it very difficult to ride. Joyce & Cristen agreed to take the Weiser River Road and to stop at the Presley trailhead to eat lunch. There was a covered picnic table and toilets. We finished our lunch about 1:30 and texted Cheryl that we were still on schedule to be picked up in Weiser at 2:30. The remaining 10 miles were mostly paved, but there were several up and down hills that required stamina and lower gears. We entered the small town of Weiser around 2:45 PM and met Cheryl in the pickup truck at the D & L Coffee Shop where we quickly loaded the bikes, made a quick stop at McDonald’s and started back to Boise. Cheryl dropped me off at the Urgent Care and then the three of them returned the bikes just before George’s closed at 5 PM. Joyce and Cristen came back to the Urgent Care to check on me to say goodbye before Cheryl and I drove to Stanley (approximately three hours northeast of Boise).

Sawtooth Mountains, Stanley

Cheryl and I arrived in Stanley just as it was getting dark. We checked into the High Country Inn and ate dinner before crashing for the night. The next day, we hiked the Fishhook Creek Trail, part of the Stanley Lake Trail, and part of the Redfish Lake Trail for a total of about 14 miles. The scenery was breathtaking, and I vowed to bring my husband back there someday. We ate a delicious dinner at the Redfish Lodge while watching the groom and best man of a wedding party jump into the 40 degree lake! After a full day of hiking, I slept like a rock. We ate breakfast at the Café & Bakery (two days in a row; the oatmeal pancakes and cinnamon rolls were delicious) before driving to Sun Valley where we located Ernest Hemingway’s grave, drove up to the ski resort and browsed the touristy shops in Ketchum. After purchasing our lunch to go at Bigwood Bread, we drove to the Friedman Memorial Airport (just outside of Sun Valley) and flew Delta back to Atlanta via Salt Lake City. My husband, Ed, picked me up at the airport, and Cheryl drove to her sister’s house in Stockbridge.

Although the Weiser River Trail is not a Hall of Fame Trail, I highly recommend it. However, be sure to have a spare tube, lots of water, sunscreen, and a first aid kit. Also, be prepared to NOT have cell service throughout most of the 85.7 mile trail. I can’t wait until next week when we will find out the three finalists for the 2019 Hall of Fame Trail! Be sure to cast your vote…

Cattle Gate

Hitching Post


  

 

Weiser River Trail, West Pine to Cambridge (45 miles)

Left to Right: Martha, Joyce, Cristen, Cheryl @ White Pine Trailhead

After a short night’s rest, I awoke at 5:30 AM to Debra preparing breakfast in the kitchen downstairs. She cooked a big breakfast, including scrambled eggs, garlic pan-fried Idaho potatoes, bacon, toast, muffins, and fresh fruit (melon, pineapple, grapes, blueberries and raspberries). Debra had prepared so much food that we decided to pack the leftovers for our lunch on the trail. It took about 30 minutes to drive to West Pine (MP 85.7, just south of New Meadows), which is the current northern terminus of the Weiser River Trail. Debra helped us unload our bicycles and get our gear properly mounted before she headed back to her farm to tend to a full day of chores. I had inadvertently left a crucial piece of my GoPro camera mount at the B&B, but she insisted on helping me fasten the camera to my bike with a rubber strap and electrical tape before she left 🙂 . We started our ride at 9:30 AM in partly cloudy skies with a temperature in the low 40s.

Spruce Trestle Elev 3981 ft

The first part of the trail paralleled the highway and was fairly flat with one moderately steep hill. Within a few minutes, we encountered the detour that Debra had warned us about that routed us off the trail onto a dirt road for a couple of miles.  Apparently, the bridge construction on the highway above the trail mandated the detour. Following Debra’s instructions and the strategically placed detour signs, we returned to the trail without getting lost. Continuing south on the trail, we quickly noticed the steeper, downhill slope on the 18 mile ride to Fruitvale (MP65) and enjoyed the quick descent over several wooden trestles/bridges as the trail crossed creeks which emptied into the Weiser River.

Weiser River

The scenery was breathtaking as we pedaled through an alpine forest with mountain peaks behind us and the river swiftly flowing beside us. Occasionally, we encountered cattle blocking the trail; it took a lot of mooing and hand clapping to persuade the cows to relinquish their position on the dirt path. To corral the cattle, farmers had installed gates across the trail; these barriers required us to dismount our bikes in order to unlock, open, close, and relock the gates. At first these stops were unique and noteworthy; later, they became more frequent and irritating diversions 😦 .

Cattle on Trail

On the outskirts of Fruitvale, we passed several apple trees growing along the trail. I’d read that bikers frequently pick apples from these trees in the fall while riding through this region; however, since it was late June, the apples were only about an inch in diameter. Beyond Fruitvale, the trail emerged from the forested canyon into a valley with cattle fields and meadows and became a flatter, loose gravel path down to Council (MP 60). We stopped at a small park across the street from the M&W Market in Council to purchase drinks and snacks for our lunch. There were two picnic tables in the park along with antique farm equipment and a historical railroad marker. Since it was already 1:30 PM, we decided to eat our picnic lunch in the park and to take advantage of the public restroom facilities located across the street.

Martha, Cheryl, and Joyce on Trail

After lunch, we resumed our ride on the trail toward Cambridge (MP 40). This 20-mile portion of the trail passed through a remote canyon and was definitely bumpier and less hard packed than the higher portion of the trail. There were a few sections where loose gravel caused us to fishtail as we attempted to maintain traction. Although we had read that a machine is typically run across the trail in May to pound down the loose gravel prior to the annual bike ride, it seemed that some portions did not get adequately treated. While riding too close to the outer edge of one of the bridges, I hit a patch of loose gravel upon exiting the trestle and slid down an embankment. I skinned up my leg but mostly bruised my ego. After that, I rode single file across the center of the bridges and steered my bike in the worn down grooves on the gravel trail 🙂 .

Wildflowers on Trail

We arrived in Cambridge about 5:00 PM and loaded our bikes onto the truck that we had left parked at the Frontier Motel the previous night. The temperature was now in the upper 70s so we decided to drive over to the Mundo Hot Springs to take a quick dip on our way back to the B & B. The RV Park charges a minimal fee ($8) for non-guests to swim in their hot, spring-fed swimming pool. Upon arrival, we realized that the small cement pool lacked the appeal of a natural hot spring so we decided to forgo the experience. Instead, we purchased a cold drink and sat down for a while at a patio table located on a deck adjacent to the pool. We texted Debra to give her an estimated arrival time so that she could prepare our dinner, and she asked us to purchase a couple bottles of wine on our way back to the B & B.

Goats @ Elkhorn B&B

While waiting for dinner to finish cooking, Debra offered to give us a tour of her farm. She lives on a 50-acre farm alone and tends to a flock of sheep, a tribe of goats, two mules, three horses, fourteen dogs, a feral cat and chickens…not to mention running the B&B! Debra milks the goats daily and sells the milk and homemade cheese weekly at a farmer’s market in McCall (about 45 minutes north of her farm). She sells the sheep for meat and also raises & trains Anatolian Livestock puppies in her spare time 🙂 . Debra’s mother was a full-blood Indian and her father was from Spain. She moved from California and purchased the farm in Idaho about 17 years ago. Debra shared incredible stories with us, and I can’t imagine how a single woman (almost 60 yrs old) survives the grueling winters and the countless daily responsibilities of running a farm in Idaho – AMAZING!

After a delicious dinner comprised of smoked barbecue chicken, salad, pinto beans (another Idaho staple), bread, and homemade cheesecake, we excused ourselves and went to bed. We knew that we had a long day (40 miles) ahead of us tomorrow.

         



Weiser River Trail, Travel Days (June 20-21, 2019)

Left to Right: Martha, Genie, Joyce, Cheryl @ Esther Simplot Park

On Thursday, June 20th, I flew on American Airlines from Atlanta to Boise, Idaho with a long layover in Dallas, Texas. When I arrived in Boise, Cheryl Cockrell, my life-long friend from high school, met me in baggage claim. I grabbed my bag and we headed over to the rental car counter to complete the paperwork for renting a pickup truck to transport our bicycles on the weekend. We drove about 30 minutes north of Boise to Eagle, where my friend Genie Bearden and her husband live in a beautiful two-story home. Before our retirement, Joyce and I worked with Genie at Clayton State University, and we still stay in touch. Genie invited Cheryl and me to stay with her Thursday night prior to our bike ride on the Weiser River Trail. Although we didn’t arrive at Genie’s house until almost 10 PM, we still stayed up almost two hours talking and catching up on each other’s families and travels. After a good night’s sleep, Genie treated us to a wonderful breakfast of mini quiches (made-from-scratch) and cinnamon toast! Cheryl and I walked about three miles after breakfast and then showered and dressed to meet Joyce for lunch in Boise. Joyce was visiting her brother, Curt, who is fighting lung cancer.

Idaho Potato Ice Cream Sundae

After a brief visit with Curt, his daughter and granddaughter, we drove over to Your Friendly Neighborhood Pub in Hyde Park for lunch. The food and service were excellent. Following lunch, we drove to Esther Simplot Park and walked around the lake to a whitewater training area where kayakers practice maneuvers; unfortunately, the practice area was closed due to high water. Next, we drove to the Westside Drive-In for an ice cream sundae, which is shaped to resemble an Idaho potato (REALLY!).

We dropped Joyce at her brother’s house and drove back to Eagle to get our rental truck. After saying goodbye to Genie and her husband, we drove back to Boise where we met Joyce and her niece, Cristin, at George’s Cycles. Prior to our trip, we rented three low entry Specialized Roll Elite bikes and one low entry Specialized Como e-bike. Although George’s had treated the tires with green slime to prevent punctures from goathead seeds (stickers) which grow along the Weiser River Trail, we also asked one of the technicians for a brief demonstration on how to release the tires, just in case we got a flat. One of the managers recommended that we purchase a spare tube for each bike, and he agreed to allow us to return the unused tubes for a full refund after the trip. The staff were very attentive to our needs and we highly recommend George’s Cycles to anyone planning to rent bikes in the Boise area.

Legends on Main

We loaded the bikes onto the truck and drove north about an hour and a half to Weiser where we ate dinner at Legends on Main. The National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest is held in Weiser during the third week of June each year, which coincided with our trip. As we entered Weiser, we spotted a makeshift campground and stage on the outskirts of town, so after dinner we decided to drive by Memorial Park where live entertainment was scheduled throughout the day. We rolled down the windows to hear the music as we drove by; unfortunately, the noise from the fair rides drowned out the fiddlers 😦 .

 

Elkhorn B&B

From Weiser, we drove about 45 minutes north on Hwy 95 through Midvale and Cambridge to the Elkhorn B & B near Mesa, Idaho. Prior to the trip, we researched places to stay which would be convenient to the trail while providing an authentic Idaho experience. The Elkhorn B & B was the perfect choice because it is centrally located to the trail on a 50-acre working sheep & goat farm. The two story log cabin offers accommodations for approximately 10 guests. Since the four of us were the only guests for the weekend, Debra, the owner, allowed us to spread out so that we could each have our own bed. I stayed in the loft on a comfortable fold-out sofa with a mattress topper; I had plenty of space with another sofa and a twin-sized bed to spread out all of my clothes and gear. Joyce and Cristen chose to share a room upstairs which had a log queen bed as well as a full and twin bed, and Cheryl chose the bedroom downstairs with a queen bed. After transferring our bikes to Debra’s truck and hauling in our luggage, Debra agreed to follow Cheryl and me back to Cambridge (approximately 15 miles) where we had made arrangements with the Frontier Motel to park our pickup truck overnight. We planned to bike from the north end of the trail down to our parked truck in Cambridge (45 miles) the following day. Arriving ten minutes before closing, I ran into the office to pay the $10 agreed upon fee and parked the truck in the designated space. Then, Debra shuttled us back to the B&B where Joyce and Cristin were already asleep.

Cardinal Greenway, Richmond to Marion, Indiana October 29 and 30, 2018

Cornfields along Trail

Though this bike ride stretched over two days, each day riding about 5 hours and covering about 40 miles, I’ve decided to combine my entry into one because it all seems like one long trip instead of two.

The flight to Indianapolis was on time and uneventful, and the Avis car rental went just fine.  Once again, we took off into unknown territory, with me driving and Martha navigating with the GPS on her phone.  One and one-half hours later we arrived at the Cycling and Fitness Warehouse in Richmond, Indiana, to pick up the bikes, which were free of charge to us, through a grant that Reid Hospital provided by paying the bike shop for each rental.  The shop was actually closed, but the manager Danny came in special just to meet us and give us the bikes.  That was very nice of him.  Next door to the Cycling was Warehouse Café where we changed into our biking clothes and purchased sandwiches for the trail lunch break.  I got a Thai chicken wrap that turned out

Joyce on Cardinal Greenway

to be delicious.

The plan was to ride from 1:15 to 6:30, stopping before it got dark at our Marriott Inn in Muncie.  However, we got a late start because Danny, the very helpful manager, had some difficulty adjusting the pannier rack to one of our bikes so that it wouldn’t rub the back tire.  It’s supposed to be on his road bike with a higher seat than on the ones we rented, and so it didn’t quite fit right, but we thought we really needed it to hold the pannier pack we had brought for our extra clothes and lunches.  Once he got it on in a way that he thought would work, we went out to the parking lot to pack our stuff, either in our back pack or in the pannier.  The problem was that with any weight on the pannier rack, it did droop to the point of rubbing the back tire, which definitely wouldn’t work.  So we re-packed our stuff, leaving the pannier bag and our rain gear in the trunk of the rental car along with the other stuff we didn’t think we’d need that night.  So 30 minutes late, we got started.

Joyce Emerging from Tunnel

For the first mile, though, Martha had to keep stopping to adjusting the pannier because the rubbing on the back tire, even with only our lunches bungeed to it, was really dragging Martha’s speed and making worrisome noises as it rubbed the tire.   Since we couldn’t get it totally off without the proper tools, which we didn’t have, Martha figured out that she could just twist it around so that it sat at an angle on the seat bar and thus did not extend straight out over the back tire.  That worked, thank goodness, and we were on our way again.  By now we were 45 minutes behind schedule.

Normally, we figure we can ride at an average speed of 10 miles per hour on a paved path, as opposed to riding on hard packed gravel or crushed limestone.  What we didn’t figure on was the frequency of hill climbing on this trail.  They weren’t steep, but they were a steady slightly uphill.  The canopy of trees and the trail was nice, but looking ahead to anther long incline was a little depressing.  We could average only 7.9 miles an hour, sometimes my odometer even registering 5 miles an hour.  Martha was almost always ahead of me, but she stopped to wait until I caught up.  Maybe my age is showing.  Then, to keep the time efficient, instead of stopping also, I would just ride on past and she would eventually catch up and pass me again.

Fall Leaves on Cardinal Greenway

On one of her stops, however, she was talking to a woman with a dog and didn’t see me pass her.  This was in the hour after the sun had set, so dusk was upon us.  I didn’t know she didn’t see me until she never did catch up to me.  Then I thought maybe she had some bike trouble and wondered if I should go back for her.  I waited for about 10 minutes and then decided to call her.  Well, she had turned around and gone back for me and was just about ready to call me to see where I was when I called her.  That episode cost us about fifteen or twenty minutes, which added to her stress of our not getting there while it was still light.  While I stayed hopeful, she stayed practical and started scheming while she rode. By this time, about 7:00, the sun had definitely set, and as pretty as that experience could have been, it was more disconcerting because we had no bike lights and the trail was pretty secluded in the canopy of trees.

By 7:15, darkness came to the trail.

Joyce @ Muncie Train Depot

I had better night vision than she had, and Martha said she literally couldn’t see ten feet ahead of her on the trail.  She tried to use her phone light, but to no avail.  At this point of stopping, we were about two miles south of downtown Muncie where our hotel was and near a house where a man was working in his yard. We debated the situation and then decided to ask him if we could lock our bikes up somewhere in his yard.  Martha had already planned on calling an Uber if he said yes.  So that’s what we ended up doing, a little less than two miles from our destination.

So the Uber guy got us to our hotel, we had half a pizza for dinner at a nearby restaurant, and went back to the hotel for an early night.  I was asleep before 9:30.  Martha had decided to take a shower that night, a good move it turned out, because when I went to take my shower in the morning, we found out that the whole hotel had NO hot water!  So we heated up our left over pizza, she went downstairs for some juice, and we ate breakfast in the room, ready to call another Uber driver to take us back to our bikes.  As we ate, she asked me how I felt about our original plan of turning around in Muncie and riding back to Richmond.  When I expressed some negative feelings about all the hills we would have to do going back (they were up and down hills on the way in, meaning we would have more uphill going back), she then said “Good, I’ve already reserved us a truck in Muncie so that we can do the northern part of the trail beyond the trail break by driving our bikes up to the start of the other end that goes on into Marion.”  The plan sounded good to me, so off we went with the new Uber driver.

Joyce on Trail near Marion

We rode the fifteen miles to the end of the lower part of the trail, back 5 miles to Muncie to the Chick-Fil-A, where the Enterprise people picked us up with a pick-up truck.  We got that rented, took our chicken sandwiches and started toward Gas City/Jonesboro, Indiana, where the trail started up again. Got to the trailhead parking, unloaded our bikes and rode the approximately ten miles to the end of the Cardinal Greenway trail outside of Marion and back to the truck, where our ride was complete.  It was 4 p.m.  Now all we had to do was load up the bikes, drive 90 minutes back to Richmond to turn in the bikes, pick up the rental car in the bike shop parking lot, drive both vehicles back to Muncie to the Enterprise store, turn in the truck and head on in the rental car to our motel on the way to Indianapolis.  Smooth plan, but time was again a problem.  Poor Danny was waiting in the parking lot for us at 5:59—he closes at 6 and had to pick up his grandson—and even though we had called him to let him know we were running late, it didn’t get us there any faster.  We turned in the bikes and each of us drove a vehicle, heading back to Muncie.  It was dark when we arrived to turn in the truck, and because we had changed our route from Richmond to Muncie for our return to Indianapolis, we had to cancel the one reservation and find another hotel.  This we did when we were together in the truck taking the bikes back to Richmond.  I was doing this and had almost hung up when the lady on the phone was confirming our new destination and I heard her say “Pendleton, Oregon.”  “Wait, wait wait!” I exclaimed.  “We’re in Indiana.  Pendleton, Indiana, not Oregon.”  “There’s no Holiday Inn in Pendleton, Indiana,” she said. Panic set in, but she was VERY nice and located us a Fairfield Inn in Anderson, Indiana, about ten minutes from Pendleton.  Not even her company, but she made us the new reservations.

So, after turning the truck in, we went back to the Chick-Fil-A to buy some nuggets and a milk shake to reward us for our troubles, and started toward Anderson, Indiana, where we checked in at 8:30 and Martha conducted her online math class help session.  The next morning we drove to the airport with plenty of time to spare and had a good flight back to Atlanta.  I have to add that it had rained there on Sunday, was raining on Wednesday morning as we drove to the airport, and we had NO rain at all on Monday and Tuesday while riding.  What a blessing!

Canopied Bridge

Now, I need to say a few words about the trail: It was a good ride. Perfect fall weather too.  I will say that I enjoyed the upper part (day two of riding) over the lower part (day one of riding).  The fall leaves were beautiful, as most were bright yellows, with some still green and some reds mixed in.  This aspect probably was the most prominent part of the aesthetics of the trail.  There were several wooden bridges with metal decorative canopies and metal railings.  One bridge was alongside an old railroad bridge, which was scenic.   Frequently the trail had several yards of wooden rails alongside the trail, which gave it a nice touch.  The trail keepers had also installed several wooden benches along the way, and at each trailhead was a bench, picnic table, and port-a-potty.  Often, we saw “tool” stops also.  Nice.  Where there weren’t trees, there were plenty of farms with cornfields and pretty Indiana scenery.  Lots of trees, but no flowers at this time. We encountered few people riding the trail, probably because of the time of the year, because in many pictures of the trail there are lots of people, too many people from my point of view.  So the lack of trail users was positive for us.  Just outside of Marion and then again at the lower end of the upper part of the trail we encountered a friendly couple from Indianapolis who had ridden the lower part and were now riding the upper part.  They, too, had ridden several of the Hall of Fame Trails, although I didn’t get the impression that they had set out to do that, as we had.  They were just riding pretty trails.  We told them about our blog, the one I am now working on, and we saw on Wednesday that they started following us on the blog, so we got their email address.  It would be fun to meet them again sometime.

At first I couldn’t see how it became a Hall of Fame trail, especially because the entire trail is not complete, but I can now see that it serves the local people well and it is well maintained.  It does deserve the recognition.  I’m glad we did it, and I’m especially glad we had some out-of-the-ordinary days because of the unplanned adventures.  At times, the timing was stressful, but now that it is over, it was enjoyable and well worth the time and money.

 

Cardinal Greenway – October 30, 2018

Muncie Train Depot

I woke up early (4:30 AM) the next morning and began rethinking our schedule. Based on our average speed from the previous day, I did not believe that we could ride 63 miles and still have any time leftover to eat or enjoy the scenery. So, I plotted to convince Joyce to consider an alternate plan. I suggested that we take Uber back to our bikes, continue riding north to the end of the southern portion of the trail in Gaston and then bike back to Muncie to rent a truck. I’d already checked online and reserved a small pickup at Enterprise (just in case I could persuade her to accept my revised plan) 🙂 . After renting the truck, I planned to transport the bikes beyond the 15 mile stretch between Gaston and Gas City where the trail is not complete, and then resume our ride on the northern completed section to Marion. After two hours of planning and scheming, I finally decided to get up and take another shower. To my surprise, there was no hot water! I called the front desk, and they confirmed that the hot water was out in the whole building. Although they had a plumber working on it, they were not sure when it would be repaired. I woke up Joyce and told her the bad news, and she could not grasp the possibility of not being able to take a hot shower.

Bridge Adjacent to Trail

Since I was already dressed, I decided to go downstairs and purchase milk, orange juice, and a scone to eat with our leftover pizza for breakfast. While in the lobby, I inquired about the hot water and asked whether any monetary compensation would be offered for our inconvenience. The night attendant assured me that the manager would adjust our bill when he came into work so I went back upstairs. Joyce had accepted the fact that she wasn’t going to get a hot shower and had already dressed. We heated our leftover pizza in the microwave and ate breakfast. Afterward, we packed our gear and called Uber to take us to pick up our bikes.

By now, I had explained my revised plan to Joyce and she was pretty much onboard. Our Uber driver recommended that we call U-Haul because she thought we could get a better rate on a pickup truck. I called U-Haul; although their daily rate of $19 was better, the mileage charge of $0.59/mile would make the cost significantly more than Enterprise. So, with the plans set for the day, we embarked on our journey. Fortunately, our bikes were exactly where we had left them the night before. We unchained them and started biking northward through Muncie, which is a mid-sized town with a population of 70,000 and home to Ball State University. With the exception of one major intersection, we hardly realized that we were passing through a town. We stopped at the Visitor Center (converted railroad depot) at the Muncie trailhead and picked up a mileage chart. Although the map on the brochure included mile markers, it was much easier to read the mileage chart 🙂 . Normally, you can rent bikes at the Muncie depot; however, the rentals were closed for the season.

Spectacular Fall Leaves

With Muncie behind us, we biked another seven plus miles to Gaston, which is the current end of the southern portion of the Cardinal Greenway. We turned around and headed back south to McGalliard Road in Muncie where we biked one block west to the Chick-fil-A. While Joyce hurried into the restaurant to order our lunch to go, I called to check on the status of the Enterprise Car Rental driver who was supposed to pick us up at Chick-fil-A. Within minutes, the driver arrived and helped me load the bikes into the pickup truck. Joyce returned with our lunch and we rode in the truck with the driver about 2 miles west to the Enterprise rental office. I was relieved that Enterprise was willing to pick us up because most of McGalliard Rd was a 4-lane highway with no sidewalks. After completing the necessary paperwork and transferring the bikes to another truck, we ate our lunch while driving approximately 15 miles north to the trailhead in Gas City.

We estimated how much time we had to ride the 9-mile northern portion of the trail in order to allow sufficient time to drive 75 miles back to Richmond where we had to turn in the bikes before the store closed at 6 PM. Estimating that we could ride about an hour and fifteen minutes before turning around, we started biking. Immediately, we both noticed that the scenery was slightly different than the southern portion of the trail. There were more woods in full fall color and more cattle farms. With a slightly downhill slope, this nine-mile portion of the trail was pleasant, and we enjoyed the ride much more than our stressful ride on the previous day. When we reached the trailhead in Marion, I tried to convince Joyce that it was the end of the Cardinal Greenway; however, a man loading his recumbent bike explained that the trail continued for approximately three more miles to the Sweetser Connector. So, realizing that we had extra time, we decided to keep riding.

Bridge near Marion

Although we noticed that the trail was narrower and did not have the recognizable mile-marker rocks, we pedaled on for a couple of miles against a stiff headwind through an open corn field. When a friendly retired couple from Indianapolis approached us, we asked them about the trail. They were not sure whether the trail was a connector trail or part of the Cardinal Greenway; however, they were extremely complimentary about the little town of Sweetser. We rode a little further north until we realized that we must turn around in order to make it back in time to return our bikes in Richmond. After further research, it looks like we were riding on the Sweetser Trail which joins the 2-mile Converse Junction Trail to a segment of the Cardinal Greenway. This portion was still listed as “Future Cardinal Greenway” on the map posted at the Marion Trailhead. The ride back to the pickup truck was slightly uphill, but we made good time. When we reached the parking lot, we decided to ride the ½ mile down to the actual end of the northern portion of the trail. This was a good decision; the trail was tree-canopied and paralleled a small river.

Martha near Gas
City Trailhead

Returning to the rental truck, we loaded the bikes and headed south toward Richmond. We had allowed an hour and a half for the drive, but we hadn’t planned to get stuck behind a tow truck and an 18-wheeler. The road was rural with hardly any traffic, except in front of us 🙂 . Calling ahead to inform Danny that we were running a little late, he reminded us that he needed to leave promptly at 6 PM to pick up his grandson. Driving as fast as we could under the circumstances, we managed to pull into the Cycling & Fitness parking lot at 6:01 PM. Danny was waiting for us in the parking lot; he helped us unload the bikes and quickly closed up the shop. Needless to say, we owe him a debt of gratitude!

After dropping off the bikes, Joyce followed me in the rental car back to Muncie (approx. 45 miles) where we dropped off the pickup truck and grabbed fast food (again). Realizing that we were not going to make it to the Holiday Inn Express in Greenfield before my scheduled online help session for my math class, we changed our reservations to a Fairfield Inn & Suites in Anderson, which is located about 30 minutes west of Muncie. We checked into the hotel and I logged into my help session with a few minutes to spare. Fortunately, no one logged in for help, and I was able to unwind and get ready for bed.

The next morning, we ate an early breakfast in the hotel and drove to the airport in Indianapolis where we returned our rental car and caught our flight back to Atlanta. I took MARTA from the airport to the North Springs station where my husband, Ed, picked me up en route to our daughter’s house in Villa Rica where we planned to spend Halloween with our grandson. Although the trip was rushed, I enjoyed the ride! I’m thankful that we had good weather (no rain; not too hot and not too cold) and the leaves were magnificent!



Cardinal Greenway – October 29, 2018

Cardinal Greenway

As soon as the 2018 inductee to the Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame was announced, Joyce and I started planning a trip to Indiana to ride the Cardinal Greenway. We decided to squeeze it into our busy fall schedules instead of waiting until next spring. So, on Monday, November 29th, we flew from Atlanta to Indianapolis to embark on a two-day bike ride from Richmond to Marion.

When we arrived in Indianapolis, we rented a car and drove about an hour and a half east to the Cycling & Fitness Warehouse in Richmond. Prior to our trip, we had researched bike rentals in the area and discovered that most of them are closed on Mondays. Fortunately, Danny, the manager at the Cycling & Fitness Warehouse agreed to come into the store on his day off to rent us bikes. His generosity was definitely unexpected, but the next bit of news was even more surprising. The store had received a wellness grant from a local hospital, which meant that we would be able to use the bikes for two days with NO CHARGE! Apparently, the grant reimburses the bike store when customers “rent” the bikes so it’s a Win-Win situation for the customers and the retailer.

Indiana Farm along Trail

We arrived at the bike store in Richmond about 12:45 PM, and Danny greeted us in the parking lot. He helped us select bikes for our ride and agreed to loan us his personal rack so that we could carry a pannier containing our clothes & personal belongings for the two-day ride. After trying several seat posts, Danny thought he had finally found one that would support the rack on the hybrid bikes. We pushed our bikes into the parking lot and picked up our pre-ordered sandwiches at the Warehouse Café next door. After mounting the pannier to the rack, we realized that the load was too heavy, causing the rack to drag on the back tire. Although we each planned to carry a small backpack, we also needed the rack to hold some of our gear. Realizing that we only had five hours to ride before dark, we were forced to spend several precious minutes selecting items that we could leave behind and trying to fasten bungee cords from the rear of the rack to the front of the seat post in an attempt to lift the rack above the tire. Confidant that we had resolved the problem, we embarked on the trail at 2PM (45 minutes later than originally planned). Unfortunately, the bungee cords did not sustain the weight of the pannier, and the load began to create extra drag on the rear tire. Realizing that I could not sustain the extra strength needed to pedal against the drag, I stopped and tried to readjust the rack. Desperate to find a solution, I turned the rack about 30 degrees away from the back tire. Although the rack looked strange, protruding from the side of my bike, it worked 🙂 .

Williamsburg Trailhead

It was now 2:15 PM, and we had about 40 miles to ride before dark! Normally, on a paved trail, this would not have been a problem. However, we quickly discovered that the slight uphill grade from Richmond to Losantville, about half the distance to Muncie where we planned to spend the night, was steeper than expected. Instead of averaging 10 mph, we were averaging just under 8 mph. Although Joyce was confident that we could make it before dark, I was more skeptical and pedaled harder. In my mind, I decided that if it got dark before we reached our destination, we could always call Uber 🙂 . Pushing the time constraint out of my mind, I decided to enjoy the ride.

 

Fall on Cardinal Greenway

We stopped to eat our picnic lunch at the trailhead in Economy. Although there were park benches, the porta-potty had been removed due to vandalism. After a quick lunch, we resumed our slow ascent on the trail. The fall leaves, particularly the sugar maples, were breathtaking. Most of the trail was lined on both sides with cornfields and farms. Some of the fields had been plowed for winter; others had not. We passed a few cow pastures, but the predominant crop was corn. I love to gaze at old barns and silos; it’s almost like stepping back in time. Focusing on the scenery made the uphill climb more tolerable. Our steady, persistent riding with few breaks enabled us to make up for most of the time we had lost at the beginning of our ride. After reaching Losantville, we noticed that the trail had become mostly level, and beyond Blountsville, the trail continued slightly downhill on our northern journey toward Muncie.

Bridge on Trail

By 6:30 PM, dusk was approaching, and I was doubtful that we would be able to reach our hotel in Muncie, which was about 6-8 miles away. When I noticed darkness approaching, I pedaled faster; however, Joyce, confident in her pace, fell slightly behind. Typically, I use a rearview mirror to keep her in sight, but the poor light made it difficult. I stopped to talk to a local lady walking her dog and to inquire about how far we were from the outskirts of Muncie; meanwhile, Joyce passed by me without my knowledge. Thinking that she was still behind me, I waited for what seemed an inordinate amount of time before deciding to turn around and pedal back toward her. Just as I decided to call her, my phone rang and Joyce explained that she had passed me and was actually ahead of me. Pedaling as fast I could, I caught up to her, but I explained that I was really having a difficult time seeing the trail. My eyesight is not very good at night, but Joyce was not having any difficulty. She put on her neon bands, and I tried to pedal as close to her bike as possible. Finally, I resorted to turning on the light on my iPhone 🙂 . That worked pretty well until the battery died… Joyce turned on the light on her phone, but by then I was really struggling just to see the trail directly in front of me. I stopped and told Joyce that we needed to lock up the bikes someplace and call Uber to take us to the hotel. We had just passed a house where a man was working in his tool shed outside so I suggested that we ask him if we could secure our bikes on his property overnight. He agreed and got a flashlight to help us see as we pushed the bikes up to his porch. We chained the bikes to an outer post on his porch, and explained that we would return in the morning. Then, I called Uber. Fortunately, we were at an intersection which was only 2-3 miles from the hotel. It took about ten minutes for an Uber driver to arrive, and we enjoyed conversing with him on the short ride to the Courtyard Marriott in downtown Muncie.

Courtyard Marriott

After checking into the hotel, we walked to the Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Company (adjacent to the hotel) where we had planned to eat dinner. By then, it was 8 PM, and we were starving! Joyce had soup, and we both ate pizza AND bread sticks. We decided to take the leftovers back to the refrigerator in our room to heat up for breakfast. I was exhausted but really wanted to take a hot shower before I went to bed. By the time I finished my shower, Joyce was already asleep! I watched a few episodes of my favorite shows on Acorn TV and drifted off to sleep.