Hudson River Valley Trail, Thursday, August 23, 2018

Joyce on Walkway

Actually, this trail of 18 miles one way has three different names—the lower part is the Dutchess Rail Trail, between Hopewell Junction in Hopewell, New York, and the edge of the Hudson River. Then comes the Walkway Over the Hudson, a 1.5 mile pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the Hudson River. (Martha said she read that this is the longest pedestrian bridge in the country.) The northern stretch is actually called the Hudson River Valley Trail. The last part goes a little over three miles and ends at a park. The Walkway Over the Hudson was fun because the scenery of the Hudson on both sides of us was great, and we could also see the small mountains in the distance and the green tree-lined hills on both sides of the river. There were several people walking the bridge, but it wasn’t a problem as long as we stayed in the bike-designated area and they stayed in the pedestrian-designated area. The other two sections were tree lined and shaded. The whole trail is paved. The three sections form the Hudson River Trail Network.

Dutchess Trail

We had rented our bikes from Leisure Riding in Poughkeepsie the night before, plus we rented a bike rack for the car, and drove out to dinner for a pizza and then to our room at the Holiday Inn Express. So on Thursday morning, we drove back to the bike rental place parking lot and left the car while we started on the trail. We had done the rental the night before because we started riding at 8:30 a.m., and the rental place didn’t open until 9:30 a.m. We wanted to get this early start. We rode north to the end and then south to the end, where we had lunch at Daddy-O’s and then back to the bike shop parking lot to turn in our bikes and the bike rack. Martha had read that the trail went through several little hamlets on the lower part, so we were expecting many more street crossings and commercial development. We were pleasantly surprised to see how rural and isolated the trail actually was. Except for many memorial benches along the trail, we didn’t see any other amenities and also very few people. It reminded us somewhat of the Silver Comet trail in Atlanta. It was also shady, perfect weather again, and plenty of trees to the side and overhead. It was another enjoyable ride.  Our legs and lungs must be in pretty good shape, because even after riding 36 miles, we still had plenty of energy and could have kept going.

Joyce on Trail

After turning in the bikes and turning on the GPS, Martha navigated us out of Poughkeepsie and south on various roads (like I said, I never really knew where I was going, just following her directions) to enter Manhattan from the north side. I learned as soon as I started on this leg of the trip that the merge lanes end abruptly almost as soon as we merge onto another road. One time we came close to running out of lane but fortunately no one was in the lane immediately to my left as I continued to merge onto the highway. This part of the drive was about one and a half hours. The GPS led us eventually to our parking deck near Central Park, even though barriers in our road caused us to improvise the directions about six blocks beyond our turn and then do a backtrack on another road.To top it off, there was construction right before our turn into the parking deck, so we almost missed it, which would have meant we would have to do the 12 block roundtrip detour again. However, we did see it and zipped into the deck. It was valet parking only, and it cost $40 for our six hour parking. Welcome to NYC.

Trump Tower Restrooms

With the car parked, we footed our way to the Paris Theater about six blocks away to see The Wife, a new film starring Glen Close. That was a good break, and the movie was excellent. Thanks to Martha for noticing it was playing so close to where we were and just at the right time! After the movie, we walked another five or so blocks to 5th Avenue in search of Trump Tower because I wanted to see it and go inside. Martha had the address, but somehow we kept walking past it. We should have paid closer attention to all the people taking pictures with their cell phones! Anyway, we went in, saw the escalator that Trump rode down to announce his candidacy to the crowd gathered in the lobby (I heard they were each paid $50 to be in attendance, but I have no proof), and then down another escalator to the gold-plated restrooms. Took some pictures to verify my being there and to show to Ron and Johnny.

Joyce @ Central Park

Leaving Trump Tower, we walked back about seven blocks to the bike rental where Martha had reserved bikes for us to ride around in Central Park.This ride was 6.5 miles. Not knowing how long it would take to do this because of the hills, we rode faster than we really needed to—zipping around it actually—and returned the bikes 20 minutes before they were due. Even though we could ride only on the perimeter road of Central Park, we were still in the park with no autos competing for our space (only many many other people riding and walking) and could see lots of the scenery of Central Park. I thought about the novel Kiss of the Jeweled Bird and its scenes in Central Park. We had dinner at the Tavern in the Park, which wasn’t very tasty at all and pretty expensive. It was after 9 o’clock when we were there; we decided that we should have just skipped dinner and ordered one of their fancy desserts.

So around 10:15 we started out drive to the Wyndham Hotel near LaGuardia Airport so that we could catch our flight back to Atlanta in the morning. That drive was an experience all its own. Again, with Martha navigating and me driving, we had to traverse several roads, change lanes, cross at least one big bridge, and compete with all these fast New York drivers who didn’t have patience with my going a bit under the speed limit because (I have to admit it) I was rather rattled by all the traffic and night driving. At one point, all lanes were packed, I was in the left lane, Martha said my next turn would be to the left, and there was no shoulder next to me, only this cement barrier. I stayed in the left lane going cautiously, a bit under the speed limit probably, much to the dismay of the drivers behind me who didn’t hesitate to honk to let me know I was holding them up. I wasn’t creeping along, but I definitely wasn’t going 60 miles an hour.  I didn’t want to crash. (The next day, driving my Subaru back in Atlanta, I realized that part of my troubles had been that I am used to sitting much higher in the driver’s seat than I was in the Ford Focus.) However, we made it to the hotel. And there began our next stressful experience:  there was no place to park at the hotel. Well, I take that back, there was a huge empty lot behind the hotel but fences prevented us from walking from back to front, so we decided we better not park there, because, surely, the hotel has parking spaces. Driving around to the front of the hotel, we saw a narrow driveway that led to some underground parking spaces. Ah, we were in luck. There was one spot left.  It was a pretty tight fit, Martha having to get out of the car and guide me into it so that I wouldn’t hit the cement poles or other cars parked there. But we did it! Then walking out to the front door of the hotel we saw the sign that said “Private parking. Violators will be fined $25.” Still stressed out from the drive and parking experience, we went into the hotel to check in and ask them where to park. Their response was “No, you can’t park in the underground parking area where you are. We have valet parking for $25, or you can park in the street if you can find a spot.” It was close to midnight, we didn’t want to pay $25, so we said we’d go look for a spot. But that was NOT easy! Streets for four blocks surrounding the hotel were jammed with parked cars parked inches from each other. This was not looking good.  Finally, in desperation, we drove back to the hotel after circling the area twice and said they could do valet parking. We were tired!

Small room, no hair dryer for Martha, but it did have breakfast the next morning.  We made it through the night.  The next adventure came when we checked out and asked for our car.  Suspicious of where their “parking garage” was located, because they said they could get the car for us in five minutes, I followed the employee out the front door and down into the little driveway where we had painstakingly parked the night before, only to move it and hand it over for valet parking.  This time, though, he had parked it on the side of the drive way, so that he literally drove our car ten feet to the outside sidewalk and gave us the key.  Then he kept standing there and asking for the “tik.”  I kept telling him that we gave the valet parking ticket to the inside desk, and he kept holding out his hand and asking for the “tik.”  Finally, I put his gestures and his nationality together and realized he was asking for a tip.  I gave him $3, so that we could get out of there.  Never will we stay at that hotel again.

From the hotel, it was about a twenty minute drive to the Avis Car Rental to turn in the car, get their shuttle and ride to the airport for our flight home. We got to the airport a lot earlier than we needed to, but we were there.

Martha and I always enjoy our bike rides, even the unexpected. This one was no different.

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Lehigh Gorge Trail, Wednesday, August 22, 2018

NYC Bridge

Although this is not a Hall of Fame Rail-to-Trail, Martha and I wanted to ride this trail for its scenic value. We were thinking of doing the Pine Creek Gorge Trail also in Pennsylvania, but the drive between this trail and the Hudson River Valley Trail was around five hours, whereas the Lehigh Gorge Trail was only 2.5 or 3 hour drive from the New York trail. We’ll do the Pine Creek State Park trail another time.

The Lehigh Gorge trail is part of Lehigh Gorge State Park and is a beautiful setting in central Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains area, right outside the little town of Jim Thorpe, a turn of the century “carriage-street” town set in the rolling hills of the Pocono Mountains. On Tuesday the 21st we stayed at the Inn at Jim Thorpe, an old partially remodeled hotel on Broad Street, which was a neat place to stay. We had flown to LaGuardia airport in NYC on Monday, rented a car, and drove to Jim Thorpe. Getting out of NYC was an adventure in itself.  I was driving and Martha was navigating with the help of her Google Maps on the cell phone. The route we were given took us through the tunnel under the East River, through the heart of Manhattan, and through the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson River. As long as Martha was giving me good directions, though I had no idea where I was going except from designated street to designated street where I turned and it was definitely crowded, the driving was manageable. We were able to drive along 134th Street and see the Empire State Building right close up. So many sky scraper buildings!  And so many exits and entries onto various parkways and interstates! The country side was pretty once we got out of the traffic congestion and urban environment.

Jim Thorpe, PA

On Wednesday morning, we had an early breakfast at the hotel and drove the rental into the State Park where we met our shuttle driver and renter of our bikes. His GPS coordinate was not quite where we were supposed to meet him, and he seemed rather perturbed that we weren’t at the picnic table he had (or had thought he had) designated, but after a phone call to him, we met up and started the drive. He seemed to be an okay guy—knew his biking and skiing (Telluride in the winters) life contexts—but was a bit over confident of his own knowledge and opinions. Our nickname for him became “Snobby.” He dropped us off up in the town of White Haven, where we bought good, reasonably priced ham and Swiss cheese hoagie sandwiches for our lunch on the trail at Renees’ Deli and then started riding at 10:06 a.m. I forgot to press “start” on my odometer until 1.5 miles into the trail, but at least I realized it then and didn’t go the whole time not recorded the ride.

Joyce by Waterfall

The trail was a lot of the same scenery, but that was fine because it was great scenery. The Lehigh River flowed swiftly in the gorge to our left and a rock/dirt/tree lined cliff was on our immediate right. We had an overhang canopy of trees, lots of shade, perfect weather, and very few other riders. Very peaceful and relaxing. The trail was made of hard packed crushed gravel, which made for good traveling. We had no bike problems and good shocks on the bikes. A positive comment about Snobby is that his rates were very good–$21 each for a day’s bike and the shuttle ride to the top. We used the shuttle because riding north to south was slightly downhill and because we didn’t have time in one day to ride it both ways and still get over to Poughkeepsie, NY, for tomorrow’s ride.

Martha @ Buttermilk Falls

The most notable feature of the ride was the many—about six I’d say—solid waterfalls that were coming down the mountain side on our right. Our lunch spot picnic table, in fact, was across from one and a view of the river was on the other side of us.There was one public restroom, not flush toilet but a building nonetheless, at the Rockport access area, about half way through the ride. When we finished the trail, about three hours later, arriving back in jim Thorpe, we rode a mile into town, parked our bikes and walked around the old town to see it when it wasn’t sprinkling and in the day light. We also got a huge ice cream treat/reward at Woods Ice Cream next to the train depot, where we watched people gather and board the train for an excursion into the gorge, by train instead of by bike as we had done. In all, we rode 26 miles today. A good ride. I’m glad we did it.

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.