Tammany Trace Trail, Covington to Slidell, Louisiana, March 5 – 7, 2018

Joyce on Shore of the Bogue Falaya River in Covington

Because we have decided to continue riding all the Hall of Fame Trails and because the Tammany Trace became a Hall of Fame Trail during the last two years, we decided to make an Amtrak trip to Louisiana and do this trail before summer heat set in. We rode down on Monday, biked the trail on Tuesday, and rode the train back to Atlanta on Wednesday. It was a short but good trip. Rain was forecast for Tuesday, which could have been a downer, but the overnight rain stopped by 10 a.m. that morning, and we were able to ride from 11 to 4:30.

Joyce on Tammany Trace

Why it has the designation of Hall of Fame, though, is a little bit of a mystery to me. Maybe because a lot of it goes through swampy areas, which is different, or maybe because it is one of the few bike trails in the south Louisiana area. It had rained a lot lately, so each side of the trail was bordered by a little swampy creek area. Besides the fact that it’s an asphalt paved trail, it has few amenities: no mileage signs, only a few signs indicating that it’s actually a Hall of Fame Rail-to-Trail, no bathrooms except at the ranger “office” at LaCombe and in the town of Mandeville, only scattered yellow wild flowers growing off some vines, only a couple of benches for resting along the trail, and no visible animals except one lone turtle. Alligators are supposedly in the nearby swamps, but we didn’t see any. It crosses several roads along the way, but most of them are back country roads, infrequently traveled, and not a hindrance to riding. In fact, we probably saw one car the whole time. Speaking of cars, though, we did pass two different security vehicles on the trail, so it seems pretty well patrolled for safety of the riders.

Lacombe Bayou Drawbridge

Near the end of our ride, maybe five miles from Slidell, we did come to an interesting feature: the LaCombe Bayou that has a crane operated draw bridge, complete with a ranger there to raise the bridge as needed, through which big yachts could pass from Lake Ponchartrain to the homes farther up the bayou. We couldn’t see any of the homes and didn’t see any of the yachts, but it was an interesting, unique part of the trail. The ranger came out to talk to us and said that a mother alligator is pretty consistent in caring for her breed of baby alligators each year (can’t remember the season) in the area close to the draw bridge, and he warned us not to approach any alligator we might happen to see.

Abita Springs, one of the first towns we went through, had a “crazy Louisiana stuff” museum, but they were charging to get in and it all looked like a tourist trap, so we went on.

Beach @ Fontainebleau State Park

In Mandeville, we got off the trail to see the Dew Drop Inn, an old wood framed jazz building, that is used occasionally (built maybe in the 1930’s). Its redeeming factor was its location under old oak trees with Spanish moss hanging. We then rode to the Ruby Road House, which is supposed to be another well-known jazz location, but which looked and smell only like a bar. We also bought a sandwich to go at Liz’s Where Y’at Diner. Interesting little diner. We took our sandwich three miles farther down the trail to a picnic area at Lake Ponchartrain at Fontainebleau State Park and had lunch while watching the pelicans on the lake. That was relaxing and pretty. We could also see the Causeway from New Orleans to Mandeville, about 25 miles long.

We rode 35 miles total, but the trail was only about 28.5 miles. We started at the old train station in historic Covington and ended rather abruptly near a shopping center in Slidell. The word is that the trail is being extended a few more miles, but that’s not completed yet. (It would have been nice for the trail to end closer to downtown Slidell, where we could have taken our bikes to the Best Western, but we can’t have everything go our way.) Our Amtrak rides each took about twice the time it took us to ride the trail, but then the train rides were part of the adventure. I’m sure Martha mentioned the long delays both down and back due to having to wait for freight trains to pass on the one track for both directions. This is just part of the trip, I figure, and a price we pay for no-stress riding, being able to take our Tern fold-up bikes with us on the train, and the opportunity to watch the countryside go by when I wasn’t reading, playing Cribbage with Martha, or talking with people we met on the train.

Camellia House B&B

The logistics were to use Uber from the train station in Slidell to our Camellia House B&B in Covington (we give it 5 stars for the ambience, the comfy beds, the delicious breakfast of spinach quiche, fruit, and pastries, and the friendliness of the proprietor). Then we used Uber from the shopping center in Slidell to the Best Western Plus motel for Tuesday night, and Uber over and back across the bridge for an evening in New Orleans. There we rode the street car (not trolley and ate delicious Beignets—not pastries—“you’ve got to get your lingo right” says the young Uber driver on the way to the Best Western) at the famous Café Dumonde on Decatur Street. And we walked around the old French Quarter a little before we took the St. Charles streetcar just for a ride and then called another Uber for the ride back. Our Uber drivers were all friendly, so that was sort of fun also.

On Wednesday morning, we awoke at 5:45 a.m. for the breakfast at the motel and then rode the three miles on our bikes over to the Slidell Train station, where we started our trip back. No flat bike tires, no train crashes, no rain, and good company. It was a fun trip.


Thursday, June 29: Railroad, Pennsylvania to Cockeysville, Maryland

Cottage Entrance @B&B

Woke up at 7 am again and got our stuff organized and the panniers on the bikes before breakfast.  At 8 we had another delicious breakfast of eggs benedict with Canadian bacon, poached eggs, English muffins, and Hollandaise sauce, plus fried potatoes, grapefruit, fresh blueberries, fresh cherries, orange juice, and milk.  This time Pam ate with us, and we had a good conversation about the area (the then Pennsylvania Railroad’s fame in the 1800s, the Renaissance Festival in Annapolis, a little of the Kutztown Amish Festival in early July, the origin of the Jackson House, and the interior of the house itself.  She let us walk through and see all the neat rooms in the house with their 1800 furnishings, rock walls, hardwood floors, etc. I told her it reminded me of the Brigham Young Lion House in Salt Lake City and said it would make a good polygamous household house. They are trying to sell the house, so I hope they find a buyer who appreciates the historical value of the old place, which has been updated with modern bathrooms.

Gunpowder River near Monkton

Left this morning before 9 am, as we were trying to get back to turn in the bikes at 11:30 and had 19.5 miles to go  It was a little uphill for a few miles into New Freedom and then we got the long downhill, not real steep but steady for about ten miles.  We talked to an interesting “Army” guy at Monkton Station where we stopped for a potty break, snack, and drink.  After we told him about our having ridden 30 trails in over 27 states, he was impressed and said we must be in good shape.  That was nice to hear.  I think we are in good shape and excellent health.  A blessing for both of us.  Didn’t stop many times on the way back and got back to Kate to turn in the bikes at 11:35.  Good bikes, except for my fender coming loose in York, but I fixed it with a tie and it worked fine the rest of the time.  The big mystery was when she asked for the pump that she had loaned us along with the spare tubes and tire-changing tools.  I know she gave it to us and I thought I took all those bike tools into the room that first night and put it all in a plastic bag and then carried it the other two days.  I had completely forgotten to account for all she had given us.)  Therefore, I had no idea what happened to it.  (Later that day, Pam looked for it in the B & B, but couldn’t see it.)  No telling where I lost it.  We just paid Kate for the loss. She was very nice about it and also offered to drive us over to the PA Dutch Market about a mile and a half away.  (As in “Pennsylvania” Dutch Market; we had called it the “pa” Dutch Market.  I guess our brains were a little dead.) Our shoulders and legs truly appreciated that unexpected offer, as it enabled us to stay on our schedule and avoid that 30 minutes (at least) walk.  The panniers are heavy and a bit awkward.

Pennsylvania Dutch Marketward.

We were able to spend some time in the Amish market to buy some stuff to take back and a great piece of cheesecake, which we had for lunch sitting on the Amish rockers outside the store.  Then we schlepped our panniers up to the Giant food store where Martha had determined we could buy the great local Berger cookies that Dotty Bumbalough had told us to be sure to get because they were so good. Then we had 15 minutes to walk over to the Light Rail to catch the train to the Baltimore Airport.  Once again, the Lord was watching out for us, because we made it just in time, in spite of not exactly knowing where the stain on Schilling Road actually was. One lady we asked just kept saying, “It’s right there, right there,” but “right there” was not immediately clear until she finally said, “Cross the road and look left after you pass this building.”  It reminds me of an essay we read in freshman English:  “Clear Only If Known.”  Although we got on going north instead of south—the wrong way—we realized this at the next stop and were able to switch to the other train that was conveniently stopped at the station and so didn’t miss any time in this confusion.  We made it to the airport an hour and a half later, after relaxing on the Light Rail, which turned out to be free fare for two weeks, ending tomorrow, so our stress in trying to hurriedly buy the rail pass was for naught.  The walk at the airport was a little long, but the security line had no one in it, so we were at the gate in plenty of time and ready to fly back to Atlanta.  It was another good ride with Martha and relaxing for me, riding about 84 miles on our bikes over these three days.  I love being outside doing this.  And the weather was perfect!

Thanks again to Martha for posting my blog and adding the pictures.

Wednesday, June 28: Railroad, Pennsylvania to York, Pennsylvania, and back

Breakfast @ B&B

Woke up at 7 am—had gone to bed at 9 pm—refreshed and ready for another good day on the trail and doing some sightseeing in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Our hostess at the B & B, Pam, fixed us a delicious breakfast of blueberry waffles, scrambled eggs, link sausage, fresh cherries, cantaloupe, blueberries, milk, and orange juice.  Very nice.  We ate with another couple who had also stayed there, who were from Pennsylvania (I think Harrisburg or close to Philadelphia) who had ridden down from York yesterday and were going a little further south their second day and then turning around and going back to York on this second day.  They said they were trying out the concept of riding more than one day and staying at a B&B, so they were interested in our adventures on other Hall of Fame Rails-to-Trails.  They told us about other trails they had done in Pennsylvania: the Valley Forge Trail and one along the Susquehanna River sounded the most interesting.  They also recommended a couple of food places for this afternoon when we had the car in Lancaster County.

Joyce on York
Heritage Trail

So we left at 9 am and started heading north on the Heritage Rail Trail up to York, Pennsylvania.  We could leave our panniers at the B&B because we’d be back that night, so the load on the bikes was a bit lighter.  Plus, we had reached the high point of the trail and had a nice downhill ride for the first four or five miles.  Good to go over ten mph again.  We were pleasantly surprised to ride this trail because it was much more scenic than the Northern Central/Torrey C. Brown trail.  It was better kept up, wider, went alongside actual train tracks that are in use occasionally for a tourist steam engine train.  Additionally, a fence bordered the trail from the drop off to the river part of the time.  All this made the trail a little more scenic. It’s a different river now—can’t remember the name of it, but it flows north, whereas the Gunpowder Falls River flows south into Chesapeake Bay. Really, it’s more of a large stream, but it was sort of wide.  Several old homes also dotted the sides of the trail, which meant that roads frequently crossed the trail, which made us slow down while crossing and riding between the gated bars across the trail.  That was okay.

Hanover Junction

Passed (and stopped for a water/trail mix snack break and pictures of novelty sculptures) at Hanover Junction, an intersection of the railroad—one track going to Gettysburg and one track going to York, although the Gettysburg track has been stopped short there.  In November,1863, President Lincoln purportedly was on the train from Washington, D.C. going to dedicate the National Cemetery in Gettysburg and there delivered the famous Gettysburg address.  He is said to have written most or maybe all of the Gettysburg Address while on this train. On certain evenings during the summer a speaker gives historical presentations on the porch of the train station.  Tonight’s presentation started at 7 pm, though, so we would not be able to make it work with our itinerary.

Log Cabin Quilt Shop

We made it to York by 11 am and then had to ride on the regular streets over to the Enterprise Rental Car.  That was a different experience, not only because of the increased traffic on part of this trek but also because we had to ride up a rather steep hill, which was done with the gears in 2 and 1 instead of 2 and 6, which I had been normally riding in.  We got the car, Martha had the navigational information, and I drove forty minutes east to Lancaster County.  I wanted to see some Amish country, as she and her husband Ed had seen this area a few years ago when we did a western Pennsylvania ride and Ron and I had chosen to go spend time at Gettysburg Battle land instead of Amish country.   We had lunch at the Millers Smorgasbord recommended by the couple this morning, and though it was good food, it definitely was not Amish “flavor.”  More like a nice buffet restaurant in any city. After lunch we drove through Intercourse and Bird In Hand—Amish town—and were able to see some Amish people and their wagons along the roadside and in a couple of shops we went into.  One was a neat Quilt Shop called Log Cabin Quilts that had really nice quilting materials and finished quilts.  But I have plenty of nice homemade quilts from my parents and grandparents, so I didn’t buy anything.  We got ice cream at King’s Creamery, which was good, and then started back to York.  I have to admit that I didn’t see as many Amish people as I thought I would.   The area seems more commercialized and touristy than I imagined it would be, but it was a good break from riding, and now I can know that I’ve been there.


Monument to Carolers in Glen Rock

We arrived back at the Enterprise place at 4 pm and were able to get a driver to take us and our bikes in a truck back to the start of the trail in York, which saved us 30 minutes and stressed riding with all the traffic.   So then we started back toward the Jackson House B and B. We stopped at Hanover Junction again briefly to talk to the station/museum person and then went on to Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, where we ate at a late 1700’s mill turned into a restaurant, the Glen Rock Mill Restaurant.  Dinner was good again, and then we had three miles of uphill (200 feet increase in altitude) to the town of Railroad, where the Jackson House is located.  Got back about 8:45 and then Martha did internet searching as we reconsidered our plans for Thursday on the way back to the airport.

Tuesday, June 27: Cockeysville, Maryland to Railroad, Pennsylvania

Torrey C. Brown Trail

Martha and I met at the airport in Atlanta, since she has now moved to Canton, Georgia, at 8:30 am to catch the plane to Baltimore to begin our bike trip. Unfortunately, the plane had engine problems and so we had to sit on the tarmac for 90 minutes while they fixed it, but they did, and so we arrived in Baltimore close to 1 pm rather than 11:30. We called the Uber driver, who picked us up about as soon as we called and drove us to the Hunt Valley Village Bike Rental on Paper Mill Road in Cockeysville, Maryland. It was about a 40 minute drive and cost us $46. We had pre –arranged with Kate there to rent two bikes that had pannier racks for the 3 days we would be gone, and so by 3 pm we had our gear all attached and were on our way on the Torrey C Brown Trail. To keep the panniers attached, we had to use some zip ties on her pannier rack, but it worked just fine. We rode about 22.5 miles that first day, through forested rural areas, and it was very shady and pleasant riding. We didn’t see many people along the trail, as it wasn’t going through a very populated area at all.

Little Falls

At Monkton, approximately eight miles in, we took a break and decided to forego our plan to rent an inner tube for a couple of hours to float down the Gunpowder Falls River in Gunpowder Falls State Park, which maintained the trail. The delay of the airplane basically knocked this out, because if we stopped to do the float, it might have been dark when we arrived at the restaurant or at the B & B. Besides, the water looked a little shallow and dirty. The Monkton train station/museum there was one of the few flush toilets along this part of the trail, so I take advantage when I can. There really wasn’t much to see besides the canopy of trees over the dirt and crushed limestone trail bed, but the trees were pretty, and the river was visible to our left. One small waterfall provided a bit of a scenic break, and a man-made “gnome hill” right by the side of the trail was cute to look at. A man had gathered and placed all these little gnome men all over a small hill so that it looked like a little gnome village.

Gnome Hill

The difficulty of the trail wasn’t bad, although for about ten miles we had a steady slight uphill climb, which slowed our pace down to about six to seven miles an hour. It lasted longer than it was difficult, and by the time we reached the high point in the trail at New Freedom, Pennsylvania, my legs could feel the ascent. One interesting feature of the trail is actually a lack of a feature: nowhere did we see any indication that we were leaving Maryland and entering Pennsylvania. We only knew because we asked some girls walking which state we were in because the trail looked a little different. Soon we saw a sign that said “Welcome to New Freedom.” The trail also had few mileage signs, but we had our odometer, so that we knew how far we had come.

Jackson House B&B

At New Freedom, we locked up our bikes at a restaurant, “Seven,” about a half block from the trail and ate dinner out on the patio. It was good food. Then we walked another 50 yards to Bonkey’s Ice Cream where they “make hot people cool,” and I had a tasty banana strawberry ice cream cone on a sugar cone that was coated with chocolate and chopped peanuts. Good. Then we got our bikes and rode another three miles to the Jackson House B & B in Railroad, conveniently located right on the trail and a nice old (built in 1859) rock and plaster house that looked a lot like we were in a European village somewhere.

New River Trail State Park – July 6, 2016

Bridge Crossing Creek @ New River Cabins

Bridge Crossing Creek @ New River Cabins

Wednesday morning was an 8:30 a.m. start. I’m sure Martha would have liked to begin earlier, as she is a much earlier riser, and I thought at first that I would be ready at 8:00 a.m., but finishing up breakfast of zucchini bread, banana, and orange juice on the cool porch cabin overlooking the creek and then getting my stuff on my bike took more time than I thought it would. But we did leave at 8:30. Martha had already ridden down to the beginning of the trail (about ½ mile) and back to meet me at the cabin, but she agreed to ride about 100 yards down so that I could be opposite our cabins and then turn around and start on our way. (I had pictured myself riding on the trail while eating breakfast and wanted to complete the reality of the situation by riding there.) Anyway, we said our goodbyes to Ron and Ed, who were going to handle the logistics of getting the car and the truck to their respective parking lots so that they could ride part way with us and then still have a car at the trail’s end. Ron was installing the bar ends that Tommy had given him for his birthday, so that he wouldn’t have to lean over quite so much to grasp the handle bars. (Which, by the way, worked just fine, and he looked a lot more comfortable as he rode in front of me on the trail.)

Bridge over New River

Bridge over New River

The first 12 miles was back to the junction where we had left the night before, following close to the creek all the way. The creek was actually as large as a river, and it was very scenic. That might have been my favorite part of the whole trail. And then just before the junction was a long trestle over the part of the river where the creek met the New River. That was great. And for my physical comfort, a clean toilet awaited me before we kept going along the New River. The weather was great—about 68 degrees—and shady under the canopy of trees, and right next to the water. During the next 14 miles along the New River, it was wider, of course, but not as many rocks to create any white water, and some of the time it was harder to see the water because of the trees and shrubs between us and the river. One really nice feature of this trail was the several picnic tables and even little parks situated alongside the trail. And it was well marked with these yellow posts/gates that helped us see where to go next at any intersections. The crushed gravel had quite a bit of packed dirt mixed into it, which made the ride fairly smooth. It was pretty scenery, and I think is near the top in my list of favorites. Our only problem was that the mist that started to surround us eventually turned to rain, and we had to stop to put on our rain jackets, which wasn’t all that bad actually, except when the rain stopped and the mist was thick and hot and we were in a sort of sweat bath with our rain jackets on. But it was all tolerable and not totally uncomfortable. About every hour I had to pee, but the trail was accommodating because about every hour we saw an outhouse. Not just an ordinary wooden outhouse, but a nice cement structure that even had hand sanitizer installed on the wall. Not a flush toilet but good enough to serve the purpose.

Foster Falls Trailhead

Foster Falls Trailhead

After 26 miles we saw Ed on the trail by the Shot Tower where he and Ron were waiting on us. I don’t think they had to wait too long—maybe 10 or 15 minutes. It was still raining a bit, so we decided to drive to Foster Falls and have our picnic rather than bike over there. That was good. It was a nice break, the area was pretty, and we found a little gazebo to eat under. Ron and Ed had picked up sandwiches at the Draper Mercantile before coming to meet up with us. So after lunch the rain had stopped and we headed back to Shot Tower (where in the early 1800’s they used to drop bits of lead down this 150 foot tower, where it formed into a ball and landed in a bucket of water as a round bullet for their shotguns.) We had to carry Ron’s and Ed’s bikes down the steep trail to the New River Trail, but we did it.

Ron & Ed on Trail

Ron & Ed on Trail

Then we started out on the next 20 miles. This section, according to bloggers, was the prettiest, and it was pretty as it paralleled the New River almost all the way, but the river was also sometimes camouflaged by trees. There were a few trestles, but not as many as we had on the first 26 miles and no tunnels (we had gone through two tunnels before we met up with the husbands). It was oftentimes shady, so that was nice, and fairly flat. In all, it was a good ride. The Hiawassee Bridge over the river was long and neat. Soon after that, though, we left the side of the river into the woods for about four miles, and the last two miles were noticeably more uphill than the rest had been. By the time we reached the Draper Mercantile, where Ron and Ed were stopping, Martha and I were ready to forego the last 4.2 miles and stop there also. It wasn’t supposed to be as scenic, the bugs were noticeable, it was hot, there was no river, and I guess my age was showing because I was getting tired after 46 miles. So we decided to just ride with Ed and Ron in the truck over to Pulaski where we cooled off in McDonalds with ice water and a fudge sundae. That was a good finish to a good ride.

We then all rode in the truck back to Shot Tower to pick up the Subaru and part paths. Ron and I drove back to the Brownie House and Martha and Ed went back to the New River Cabins in Galax.

Virginia Creeper – Trail July 5, 2016

This ride was only from Abingdon to Damascus. At the end of this entry I’ll say something about past rides from White Top Mountain to Damascus.

Scenic Bridge on Virginia Creeper

Scenic Bridge on Virginia Creeper

The scenery from Abingdon was just as pretty as I remember it from past rides on this section of the Virginia Creeper. The trail is composed of hard crushed limestone and dirt, it is well packed, and it is wide enough for two people to ride and talk. All this makes for a pleasant ride, plus the weather was exceptional—maybe in the 70s and no rain. We rode along the Holston River most of the time but also went through some farm lands, where we had to open and close some gates, which means private land and the owners are good about letting the trail go through their land. We crossed several wooden trestles either over the river or over wet or low parts of the land. It was really pretty. That area had had quite a bit of rain, so several places were a bit muddy, and my legs became covered with splashed up dirt. Oh well that’s part of the trip.

Creek along Virginia Creeper

Creek along Virginia Creeper

Surprisingly, I had a flat tire ½ mile northwest of Alvarado. Unfortunately, it was a back tire, which meant we had to deal with gears also. I was proud of us—Martha and I stayed calm, turned the bike over, released the brakes, removed the axis holding the rim, got the chain off the chain holders, and then removed the tire from the bike. Once off, we used my tools in my tool kit to remove the nearly flat tube and the old Teflon liner that looked like it was pretty well worn out. We got out the spare tube that I had brought along for just such an emergency. Martha said she thought we should remove the whole tire from the rim before we tried to put the replacement tube back into the tire. So we did that, and that process seemed easier than what I’ve done before, trying to put the tube into the tire while it’s still on the rim. Once in, Martha used her hand pump (glad she had it because I don’t know if I know how to use mine properly) to pump it up a little, and then we put the tire back inside the rim.

Joyce @ Junction on New River Trail

Joyce @ Junction on
New River Trail

That was a bit of a challenge, but between the two of us, we were able to do it. So with the tube in the tire and the tire back into the rim, we pumped the tube up more, and were pleased that it was filling up just like it should. Then when it seemed solid enough, we got the tire back into place on the axis, tightened the bolts holding it in place, and then got the chain back on, and turned it back over to rest on the tires. After we finished pumping it up to max, we put the brake back together and got on our way. We felt pretty good about the whole process. The biggest anxieties came from batting off the flies that kept getting on our legs as we tried to think and act, and then trying to get hold of Ed to let him know that even though we had texted him to meet us in Alvarado that now we got the tire fixed and he could just meet us in Damascus. (His lack of cell phone service was indeed an obstacle.) We had thought we should just exchange my bike with the flat tire for Ron’s bike. But we were able to fix it ourselves. The other problem with the flat is that during the entire event we didn’t even think about taking a picture, as it would have been a great photo of the only flat tire we have ever actually fixed on the 30 plus trails we have ridden.

Joyce & Ron Paddling on New River

Joyce & Ron Paddling
on New River

We eventually met Ed on the trail in Damascus near the restaurant, had a great lunch with Ed and Ron, and then we drove to Fries, Virginia, where we rented a canoe and had a nice hour float down the New River. After the canoe trip, starting at the New River Outfitters, we picked up the New River State Park Trail and rode 3 ½ miles to the junction where it meets the trail coming in from Galax, which we did on the next day. We then rode the 3 ½ miles back to the New River Outfitters where Ed and Ron were waiting for us. Then we drove to Galax to the cabins and then out to eat and then to bed.

As said earlier in the entry, the Whitetop Mountain to Damascus ride was done years earlier, in fact many times years earlier. We’ve done it with our sons more than once, with our friends (Ollie in particular enjoyed it), and with Martha and Ed. It is a beautiful ride in the mountains, crossing many old train trestles over high places, creeks, and river, and is shaded most of the time. The other great thing about it is the elevation decline, so that we are riding downhill most of the way. I hope someday my daughters-in-law can make this bike ride, as it is a very pleasant experience. The trail goes through some very small communities, again where land owners are allowing us to cross their pasture land, and follows streams several times. The only problem with this part of the trail is that either someone doesn’t get to ride it because he is the driver getting our bikes to the top, or we pay for a shuttle ride. Someday we might get ambitious to ride from Damascus to Whitetop, but right now it is a memory of only downhill riding.

Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail

The actual ride: February 26, 27, 28, 2016

Joyce Crossing Bridge

Joyce Crossing Bridge

We’ve finished our Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame trails, but we still wanted to keep riding (probably to our husbands’ frustration of our bicycle fanaticism). So we started thinking of where we wanted to go next. This particular trip to the Florida Keys in the wintertime was Martha’s idea, but it wasn’t difficult to talk me into it, and I’m really glad we did this trail. It was beautiful, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Florida Bay on the other side. So that we were prepared and wouldn’t get lost—because the actual trail is not distinctly marked in several places—with the bike trail and Highway 1 being one and the same—Martha had done extensive research on Google Earth to determine just exactly where the trail deviated from the road and which side of Highway 1 the OHT was on—bay or ocean. This detailed chart REALLY helped us get around without any confusion. I was grateful that she had prepared it.

Joyce & Ron on Channel 2 Bridge

Joyce & Ron
on Channel 2 Bridge

Ron and Ed came with us on this journey, though they didn’t ride as many miles as we did. In all, we went about 93 miles—34 on Friday, 28 on Saturday, and 31 on Sunday. Ron rode all of day 1, about 14 miles of day two, and about 10 miles of day 3. Ed rode all of day 1 and then decided he would be our official shuttle, which turned out to be a good thing because it took less time to do the bike rides without having to drop off one truck and then drive to the next destination. We crossed 11 bridges on Friday, 9 bridges on Saturday, and 7 bridges on Sunday. We skipped the 7-Mile Bridge and the Channel No. 5 Bridge because they were long and had really narrow shoulders for us to ride on, biking next to the 45-55 mile an hour traffic that was zipping past us. On some of the bridges we had our own bike lane, which was really nice, on others we had a designated bike lane that was about 3 feet wide, on others the roads were four-lane which meant that cars could move over to the left lane and not be so close to us, but on the rest of the bridges we were

2016-02-26 13.20.39

Joyce & Martha on Bridge

riding with the fast traffic on fairly narrow shoulders. We just didn’t stop or look around as we rode across these bridges. Some were less than a mile, so that wasn’t too bad. On the separate bike lane bridges we were able to stop and enjoy the fisher people and the view of the water and other smaller keys. Some sections were in isolated tree areas, not really forests, but growths of palms and mangroves. Other sections were less than appealing—like being on a sidewalk in a town—because there were several commercial properties that we were going past. These “sidewalk” parts of the trail are what Ron skipped. Martha and I didn’t mind them; I guess we’re used to different locations and take it in stride. We just like to ride our bikes in different areas and see the scenery—whatever it is—up close. Funny thing about this trail is that it is a Rail-to-Trail, but not once did we see any indication of that. We did see, though, some signs indicating it was the Overseas Heritage Trail. The main thing is that it was different from all our other rides, and that made it fun.

Sightseeing we did:
Thursday before we met Ed and Martha, we went to the Holiday Inn in Key Largo to see the African Queen boat, used in the Humphrey Bogart movie of that name. Didn’t do a boat ride, just saw it, but it was interesting.
Friday morning we woke up a little after 5 a.m. in order to drive to Higgs Beach at Key West to watch the sun rise (6:58 a.m.)—southernmost, easternmost point of the U.S. Clear day, and it was beautiful, worth getting up so early.

Friday morning: National Key Deer Refuge/Blue Hole Observation Platform—saw alligator but no Key Deer. Nice little nature walk.

Little White House

Little White House

Friday afternoon: Harry Truman Little White House in Key West and Hemingway House in Key West—both were very interesting and informative tours, really glad we did them. Then we rode the bikes to the official statue of a buoy, indicating the Southernmost Point in the U.S., and took our pictures.

Saturday afternoon: did a 1.2 mile Golden Orb Nature Trail at Long Key State Park—nice and relaxing, saw a lot of palms and a group of people patiently waiting to see a rare goose; didn’t see any animals, but it was a pretty walk. Skipped Curry Hammock State Park because some people we met at a crossing told us the Golden Orb was similar and better. (They said if we had time we should see Bahia Honda Key State Park at MM 38.7, but we didn’t have time.) Before dinner that night we went into the Bass Pro shop and got to walk around in Hemingway’s actual boat. That was fun.

Coral Quarry

Coral Quarry

Sunday: Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park—very interesting quarry-type display of the fossilized corals that are the “earth” basis for the Florida Keys, I liked this; Hurricane Monument in Islamorada, built to honor the several hundred people who lost their lives in the Labor Day hurricane in 1935—interesting. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park–took a glass bottom boat tour for 2.5 hours. It was really fun riding out on the Atlantic Ocean to above the coral reef where they slowed down the boat so that we could see all the fish and coral below. They weren’t as colorful as what I saw in Hawaii snorkeling, but the fish were interesting. Even though I can’t remember all the different fish we saw, it was worth the trip. We had a good time.

Accommodations for future reference: (all checked out with good ratings on Trip Advisor by Martha)
Truck rental (Ford 150) from Royal Car Rental at Miami airport.
Bike Rentals from All Keys Cycles in Key Largo. Only $35 a day and good comfort bikes.

Bay @ La Jolla

Bay @ La Jolla

Thursday, February 25, stayed at Panama Suite at Sunrise Suites, a VRBO rental in Key West, 2 bedroom, shared with Martha and Ed, really nice place, about a mile from Southernmost part of the Key West island. Friday and Saturday, February 26, 27, stayed at LaJolla Resort in Islamorada, nice place on the Bayside, and reasonable in price. Sunday, February 28, stayed at Days Inn at Miami airport north, right near the airport, decent room, reasonable price.

Restaurants: Abbondanza Cigar Restaurant for dinner in Key West Thursday night; Southernmost Beach Café for breakfast in Key West Friday morning; lunch at convenience market on bike ride; Flamingo’s Ice Cream on Duval Street in Key West for ice cream after bike trip and sight-seeing on Friday; Islamorado Fish Company for dinner Friday night; Bob’s Bunz in Islamorado for breakfast Saturday morning (bought cinnamon rolls to take along for snack); Stuffed Pig just north of 7-Mile Bridge (forgot which town it is in) for lunch—good bbq sandwich; dinner at Morada Bay in Islamorado–good salmon salad and pepper appeitizer, near LaJolla Resort motel. Breakfast at Mangrove Mike’s Café in Islamorada—tasted good; Key Lime pie from Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory (delicious!) for a snack; lunch from Trading Post but eaten at picnic table at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park before our glass bottom boat trip. Snack dinner at motel in Miami before bed. Breakfast/lunch on Sunday morning at airport because plane was delayed for two hours.

All in all, good food, good accommodations, good company, and a great ride!