In June 2015, we successfully completed our goal to bike all of the Hall of Fame trails; however, before we hardly had a chance to celebrate our accomplishment, the RTC awarded the distinction to four more trails 😦 . So, today Joyce and I resumed our quest by riding the Torrey C. Brown Trail from Cockeysville, a suburb of Baltimore, to Railroad, just above the Pennsylvania-Maryland state line. Although we had planned this trip for several months, I almost canceled at the last minute because I had to rush my 96-year old mother to the hospital the night before our departure. Thankfully, her diagnosis of shingles, unpleasant but not life threatening, meant that I could follow through with our travel plans.
This morning, with only an hour of sleep, I drove from my new home in Canton, Georgia down to Woodstock where I caught a shuttle to the Atlanta airport. Our Delta flight was scheduled to leave at 9:36 AM; however, after boarding the plane, we were told that the left engine required repair. Although this announcement was unsettling, I was still able to doze during the hour and a half that it required the mechanics to replace the faulty valve on the motor.
Upon arrival in Baltimore, we used Uber for the first time to arrange transportation from the airport to Cockeysville, approximately 30 miles north. Our young Asian driver initiated us to the Uber world by answering all of our questions about this new, popular means of transportation. The 40 minute ride passed quickly, and we agreed that Uber was definitely faster than the local lite rail system.
Joyce had arranged our bike rentals with Hunt Valley Village LLC, an eclectic rental shop/petting zoo, which bordered the Torrey Trail. Jane, the owner, was extremely helpful as we loaded our panniers and gear onto the Schwinn hybrid bicycles. My husband will be proud of our ingenuity with using plastic zip ties to retrofit our panniers to the Schwinn bike racks. It took about 30 minutes to securely fasten our gear (panniers, cameras, GPS devices, etc.), but we were confident that the zip ties and bungee cords would keep our baggage secure for the next three days.
At approximately 1:15 PM, we embarked on our 22+ mile ride to the Jackson House B&B in Railroad, PA, our lodging destination for the next two nights. The Torrey C Brown Trail, formerly the Northern Central Railroad Trail, derives its name from a previous DNR secretary who was instrumental in converting the rail line into a multi-use trail. The hard-packed gravel trail parallels the Gunpowder River, a tidal inlet of the Chesapeake Bay, for most of the 21 miles stretching north to the state line. Although the temperature rose to the low 80s, we felt a cool breeze riding along the tree-canopied trail.
Our original plan was to bike 7.2 miles to the Monkton Station where we could rent tubes to float down the Gunpowder River. Unfortunately, our delay in Atlanta forced us to forgo the tubing; however, we hope that our schedule can be readjusted in order to squeeze in a brief float on our return ride through Monkton on Thursday. After chatting with the owner of the rental shop and some tubers in the parking lot, we resumed our bike ride and quickly noticed that the trail was now ascending at about a 2-3% grade. The next 14 miles from Monkton, MD to New Freedom, PA would be slightly uphill. Instead of focusing on the steady climb, I enjoyed listening to the birds and admired the hardwood trees and lush ferns which lined the trail. We spotted several rabbits and one deer as we pedaled north to the state line.
The next memorable stop was at Little Falls at MM 13. This scenic spot, carved by years of water flowing over massive rocks into a small cavern, was naturally framed by wild, orange day lilies growing profusely along the banks of the river. We took a brief break to soak in the beauty of the falls before resuming our uphill ascent. Bikers from the opposite direction seem to zoom by, reminding me of the load of my panniers on this uphill stretch. As we approached the state line, we expected to see a sign indicating the border; however, we entered New Freedom before realizing that we had already crossed into Pennsylvania.
The state line marks the start of the Heritage Trail, which spans northward approximately 21 miles to York, PA. We decided to eat dinner at Seven, a popular steak & seafood restaurant in New Freedom. My lack of sleep from the previous night was catching up with me so I appreciated the chance to stretch my legs, charge my phone, and savor the sirloin steak flatbread that I ordered for dinner. After our rejuvenating meal, we walked a couple of blocks to Binky’s – a much touted ice cream establishment, which resides in an old restored movie theatre. The lighted billboards displayed the name of the ice cream shop and the quote, “Don’t Grow Up; It’s a Trick,” instead of the title of the latest feature film. A snow cone stand occupied the original ticket booth, and the concession counter displayed a variety of ice cream flavors, including Zombie (chocolate peanut butter cookie dough), which was my selection. We ate our ice cream on the benches out front, and Joyce observed that this appeared to be the most popular place in town.
After stuffing ourselves with dinner and ice cream, we pedaled the remaining 1 1/2 miles to the Jackson House B&B in Railroad, PA (every time I see the name of this town, I think of the board game Monopoly – not exactly sure because there’s no direct connection). Since we arrived to the B&B after hours, the manager had left our key on the kitchen table in the main hotel. She also left us homemade cookies and soft drinks 🙂 . We locked our bikes and carried our bags upstairs to a charming cottage, located adjacent to an 8 ft stone wall and man-made waterfall. The cottage had two beds, two reclining chairs, and a bathroom. It was equipped with a TV, fireplace, and a nice screen porch overlooking the small rural town.
I took a quick shower, plugged in all of my chargers, and collapsed onto the bed.