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!



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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.




Central Park, NY – August 23-24, 2018

The Wife Billboard

We left the bike shop in Poughkeepsie about 3:00 PM and drove back to New York City. It took a little over an hour and a half to drive to Central Park where we parked our car in a deck on 66th Ave. Realizing that we had a couple of hours to waste before the park would be closed to car traffic, allowing bikers and pedestrians a safer pathway, we decided to go to the movies! I had secretly hoped that we would be able to see an early screening of The Wife, starring Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce, at the Paris Theater, and my wish came true 🙂 . We walked about 10 blocks to the theater and arrived just in time to pay for our tickets, go to the restroom, and purchase a drink before scurrying into the dark theater where the previews had already started. The movie was definitely worth our extra effort; the acting was flawless, and Glenn Close’s portrayal of a wife trapped in desperation was mesmerizing to watch as years of her pent up frustration exploded on the screen before our captive eyes. The ending was completely unexpected; she finally had her freedom but not as the audience expected. I certainly hope that this deserving performance will finally earn Glen Close the Oscar, which has eluded her several times in the past.

Dusk in Central Park

Exiting the theater, we walked a few blocks west to the bike shop where I had purchased our 2-hour rentals through a Groupon for $12 prior to the trip. The rental agent informed us that the bike shop closed at 8 PM instead of 9 PM, which I had mistakenly thought. Since it was already 7 PM, we had only an hour to ride the 6.1 miles around the park, including pushing our bikes a few blocks over and back. As directed by our map, we entered the park on Central Drive and proceeded counterclockwise around the perimeter. There were literally hundreds of joggers and bikers following this same route, and it almost felt like a Friday night traffic jam in Atlanta. Bikers zigged and zagged around the joggers and pedestrians, whizzing by us as if we were standing still. The route around the park is hilly, and I needed to lower my gear several times as I strained to make it up some of the hills. Thankfully, neither of us succumbed to dismounting our bikes and pushing them; however, our uphill speed was nothing to brag about 🙂 . Since New York is further east than Atlanta, the sun sets earlier. As we neared the end of the loop, darkness was fast approaching, and many bikers turned on their headlights. We returned our bikes with five minutes to spare, and I crossed off another item on my bucket list: bike through Central Park 🙂 .

Tavern on the Green

I talked Joyce into eating dinner on the patio at Terrace on the Green. Thankfully, I had packed my jacket because it was chilly sitting underneath the canopy of lights on the terrace. Although this restaurant is located in a beautiful, romantic setting in Central Park, the food was really just average. After dinner, Joyce and I lamented that we should have purchased dessert instead of wasting calories on a bland meal that was not very satisfying. We walked back to the parking deck, paid $40 (ouch!) for our car, and drove toward LaGuardia to our hotel. Since it was night and we were not familiar with the highways to Long Island, the drive was a bit stressful; however, Joyce remained calm and we did not miss a turn 🙂 . Arriving to the Wyndham Hotel after 10:30 PM, we were informed that we could either pay $25 for parking or try to find a legal place to park nearby. We carried our luggage to our room and returned to the car in an effort to find a free parking space; however, after circling the streets around the hotel to no avail, we decided to concede and pay the valet fee. We probably didn’t get to sleep until after midnight and had to wake up early the next morning to get to the airport. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we returned our rental car and took two shuttles back to LaGuardia. I slept during part of our flight home, and was thrilled that my husband had decided to pick me up at the airport rather than have me take MARTA to the North Springs Station. I was glad to be home but already planning our next bike trip on the newly inducted Cardinal Greenway in Indiana.

Hudson Valley Trail Network, Poughkeepsie, NY – August 22-23, 2018

Leisure Ride Bike Shop

After our bike ride in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, we drove three hours northeast to Poughkeepsie, New York. We arrived in Poughkeepsie about 6:15 PM and drove directly to the Leisure Ride Bike Shop (excellent customer service and well-maintained, quality bikes) where we rented two KHS Brentwood comfort bikes and a rack for our next day’s ride on the Hudson Valley Trail Network. The 18-mile Network is comprised of three paved trails: the Dutchess Rail Trail (13 miles), Walkway over the Hudson (1.3 miles), and the Hudson Valley Rail Trail (3.6 miles). Our original plan was to ride across the Hudson to the northern terminus of the trail and back the same evening as we rented the bikes to reduce the amount that we would have to ride the following day. However, we found out that the Walkway over the Hudson closes at 8 PM (time adjusts with sunset), and if you do not make it back across the pedestrian bridge before the gates close on the west side, you have to bike south and cross the Hudson on the car bridge. Based on this new information, we decided to wait until the following morning to bike the whole trail down and back, which would be a total of 36 miles.

Mill House Brewing</center)

The bike owner personally helped us secure the rack and bikes onto our rental car, then we drove to Mill House Brewing for dinner. We ordered a pizza and discussed how to adjust our schedule for the following day. I highly recommend this two-story, warehouse brewery; the food was excellent, and the service was quick even though they were extremely busy. Following dinner, we drove to the Holiday Inn Express to spend the night.

Martha on Pedestrian Bridge

We ate an early breakfast at the hotel, including one of their decadent cinnamon rolls, and then drove back to the Leisure Ride Bike Shop to park our car. The shop was not open yet; that’s why we rented the bikes the previous evening. We unloaded the bikes and pedaled a few hundred feet to the entrance of the trail. Although the trail passes through several hamlets, it felt fairly isolated. We crossed three iron bridges over highways on the 6.5 mile stretch from the bike shop to the Walkway over the Hudson.

Walkway over the Hudson

The 1.3 mile Walkway over the Hudson River is the longest pedestrian walkway in the world. As we approached the bridge, we noticed that pedestrians are supposed to walk along the outer sides while bicyclists are supposed to ride in the center – a recommendation which definitely improved the flow of traffic across the bridge. It was approximately 9 AM, and there were about 100 people on the bridge; however, there were noticeably more walkers and joggers than cyclists.  We stopped several times to take photographs and then made our way to the other side where we biked 3.6 miles to the northwestern terminus of the trail.

Caboose Near Western Terminus

Caboose Near Western Terminus

The trail was extremely well maintained with restroom facilities, mile markers every .5 mile, and numerous benches and picnic tables. This more isolated portion of the trail was tree canopied with a few rock outcroppings, and it reminded us of the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia.

Wild Flowers along Trail

The ride down to the end of the trail and back to the bridge took about an hour, including a quick bathroom stop. As we entered the bridge, the sun was in front of us and I was thankful that I was wearing my sunglasses. It took only about 10 minutes to bike across the Hudson. After exiting the bridge on the eastern side, we continued down the trail past where we had parked our rental car and pedaled on to the southern terminus in Hopewell Junction. Although we had read that this portion of the trail crossed several roads and was more urban, it was unexpectedly remote as soon as we passed the outskirts of Poughkeepsie. I enjoyed the wild flowers and the variety of trees bordering the trail. This stretch was not as crowded and seemed slightly downhill.

White Haven Train Depot

We arrived in White Haven sooner than we expected and decided to eat lunch at Daddy O’s, a New York chain restaurant located almost in sight of the restored train depot and museum marking the end of the Dutchess Trail. After a satisfying lunch (turkey & avocado sandwich with fries and a coke), we biked 6.5 miles back to the bike shop where our rental car was parked and returned our bikes before driving back to New York City for our flight home to Atlanta.



Lehigh Gorge Trail, Jim Thorpe, PA – August 21-22, 2018

Empire State Building

Our bike trip to the Poconos started with a flight from Atlanta to LaGuardia, followed by a two and a half hour drive to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. Our GPS route took us directly through Manhattan, via the tunnel under the East River, down 5th Avenue past the Empire State Building, and under the Hudson River to New Jersey.

Broadway Street, Jim Thorpe

Arriving to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania was a pleasant surprise! The quaint tourist town, lined with gift shops and B&Bs, is sandwiched between the Pocono Mountains and the Lehigh River. A scenic railway, bordering the river on the east side of town, runs daily from Jim Thorpe north to to the Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Inn at Jim Thorpe

We checked into The Inn at Jim Thorpe and carried our luggage to our room before walking a block to Molly Maguire’s for dinner. Our original plan was to eat at the Stone Row Eatery, but we found out that it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Molly McGuire’s

The outdoor deck at Molly’s pub was a perfect spot to enjoy a good meal and the cool, fresh air! After dinner, we hurried back to the hotel so that I could log into my online help session for the college algebra class that I’m teaching this semester. I helped one student and then fell asleep watching a new episode of 800 Words on Acorn TV. Fortunately, I got a good night’s sleep and felt rested the next morning.

Renee’s Cold Cut Hut

I chose French toast and bacon for breakfast at the Broadway Grille (hotel restaurant); the food was both delicious and filling. After breakfast, we loaded our luggage back into the rental car and drove about a mile and a half to the Lehigh Gorge State Park where we met Jim, our shuttle driver, who transported us with our Trek rental bikes to White Haven. Jim dropped us off near the trailhead, but we decided to pedal a few blocks back into town to Renee’s Cold Cut Hut where we purchased sandwiches for a picnic lunch on the trail. We purchased a large hoagie, chips and a drink for approximately $8, which was much cheaper than we expected. Renee, the owner, was extremely cheerful and friendly.

Martha @ Waterfall

We started biking about 10:00 AM and within minutes we felt completely isolated from the hustle and bustle of the world around us. The 25-mile Lehigh Gorge portion of the Delaware & Lehigh Rail Trail follows the Lehigh River through tree-canopied forests on its slightly downhill route to Jim Thorpe. The trail is hard-packed crushed gravel and is well maintained (no potholes or debris). We passed numerous waterfalls on our ride, including Buttermilk and Luke Falls. The landscape reminded me of the Greenbrier River Trail in West Virginia, and I felt extremely blessed to have the opportunity to experience this remote, scenic portion of the country on a bicycle!

Joyce @ Picnic Spot

Just below Penn Haven Junction, we decided to eat our lunch at a picnic table perched on the bank of the river and adjacent to the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway tracks. Opposite the tracks and in sight of our picnic table was a small waterfall – what a perfect spot for our lunch! We enjoyed our ham & cheese hoagie while listening to the river rushing below. The water was swift but too low for rafters; however, we did spot two groups of tubers.

 

St Mark’s Cathedral

After lunch, we pedaled south a few more miles to the Glen Onoko access point. Unfortunately, we did not have time to make the two hour plus round trip hike to the falls so we continued our journey south to Jim Thorpe. We parked our bikes and took a walking tour of the town, peering in gift shops, strolling down narrow carriage roads, and admiring the Gothic-style St. Mark’s Episcopal Church built in 1869. Our walking tour ended at Wood’s Ice Cream where we indulged in our traditional end-of-the-ride dairy treat 🙂 .

Scenic Railway

As we departed Jim Thorpe, the scenic railway train was also leaving the station for a sightseeing trip up the valley. The train paralleled the bike trail for several miles, but we turned east into the state park to return our rental bikes to the same parking lot where we had left our car earlier that morning. Our shuttle driver had left a combination lock for us to secure the bikes to a concrete picnic table until he later returned to get them.

Although this is not a Hall of Fame trail, I highly recommend it! We only rode the Lehigh Gorge portion of the much longer Delaware & Lehigh Rail Trail, which spans 141 miles from Bristol (just outside of Philadelphia) to Mountain Top in the Appalachian Mountains.

Stream Near
Buttermilk Falls

Abandoned Track Adjacent to Trail

View of Lehigh River Valley





Tammany Trace – Day 3

Since our Amtrak train was scheduled to leave Slidell at 7:57AM, we had set the alarm for 5:45. We showered, dressed, and ate breakfast at the hotel before biking the 2 ½ miles through a residential neighborhood over to the train station. Although the train was supposedly running early, it actually arrived 30 minutes late. During our wait, we met two nice ladies, one was a retired teacher and theology professor who used to live in Smyrna, GA and the other was visiting her daughter, a student at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. After boarding the train, I slept until almost lunchtime. We decided to eat in the dining car again and were seated with a couple from Little Rock Arkansas who were staying in a roomette (something that Ed and I plan to do on our Great Lakes trip in May). He is a retired middle school music teacher and she writes technical government documents for a pharmaceutical company. After an engaging conversation and a good meal, we returned to the coach car where I tried to take another short nap, but the temperature was too cold! I decided to go to the lounge car where it always seemed to be much warmer. I worked for a couple of hours grading my students’ online tests and then joined Joyce and the theology professor for a discussion about religion. I ordered a salad from the snack bar for supper and also purchased a blanket so that I could sleep comfortably for the remainder of our trip. Although our train was more than three hours late returning to Atlanta, I still am an advocate of taking the train!

Joyce and I are already talking about our next bike ride, which will be the Hudson Valley Trail in upstate New York in the fall….

Tammany Trace – Day 2

Pool & Gardens

At 4:30 AM, I awoke to the sound of thunder and rain pelting down on the roof above my bed. I checked the weather app on my phone to verify that the storm was expected to end by mid-morning, and I quickly drifted back to sleep for a couple more hours.

Linda, the owner of the B&B, had prepared our breakfast before our arrival and placed it in our kitchenette. In addition to the spinach quiche and fresh strawberries in the refrigerator, there were also slices of banana bread and cranberry muffins on a glass-covered serving tray. While eating our breakfast in the terrace room overlooking the pool & gardens below, we realized that the rain had subsided.

HJ Smith & Sons General Store

I decided to take a walking tour of Covington following the map that Linda had provided us upon our arrival the previous night. I stopped at the HJ Smith & Sons General Store & Museum and admired the collection of antique farm equipment, hardware tools and transportation artifacts (stagecoach and hand-carved canoe) on exhibit.

Brooke’s Bike Shop

I walked over to Brooke’s Bike Shop, which displayed a wide range of vintage and new bicycles for sale and rent. Circling back to the B&B, I passed several charming shops and lamented that I didn’t have more time to peruse the local boutiques.

Southern Mansion in Covington

Joyce and I loaded our panniers on our bikes and thanked our charming southern hostess before embarking on a quick riding tour of Covington, the parish seat of St. Tammany Parish. I suspect that this historic  Northshore village attracts many tourists and locals who want to visit the specialty shops and enjoy the Cajun cuisine.

Covington Trailhead

With some help from a few local residents, we located the trailhead and began our 28 mile journey to Slidell. Heading east from Covington, the asphalt trail follows the original Illinois Railroad passageway. The Trace is lined on both sides with loblolly pines, live oak trees, and wetlands. Although it was still a little early in the season for alligators, I was on the lookout for them as we pedaled within feet of ideal gator habitat. We heard lots of birds (maybe waterthrush) that made shrill clicking sounds, and we saw a large turtle sunning himself along the banks of a swampy stream. When I turned around to take his picture, he quickly crawled back into the opaque water and out of sight.

Abita Mystery House

Between Covington and Abita Springs, we crossed the Tchefuncte and Abita Rivers. In Abita Springs, we saw the namesake brewpub and a vintage service station which had been converted into a mystery house full of southern Louisiana folk items and “junk.”

Liz’s Where Y’at Diner

Continuing east from Abita Springs, the trail turned south toward Lake Pontchartrain. We passed a large park and children’s museum about halfway to Mandeville. As we entered Mandeville, we turned south onto Florida Street and biked a couple of blocks to Liz’s Where Y’at Diner where we ordered a sandwich and chips to go. The service was fast and Liz, the owner, came over to personally introduce herself.

Dew Drop Jazz Hall

We pedaled back to the Trace and continued our ride through Mandeville. At the Lamarque Street intersection, we turned right and rode a few blocks to the historic Dew Drop Jazz & Social Hall (dewdropjazzhall.com), which was built in 1895 and is considered to be the world’s oldest rural jazz hall. Jazz events are still scheduled on select Saturdays throughout the spring at this rustic wooden structure surrounded by majestic live oak trees.

Ruby’s Roadhouse

We followed Lamarque Street two blocks north of the Trace to Ruby’s Roadhouse – a local pub and a stage for local, national, and international musicians. Poking our heads into the smoke-filled bar was enough for two teetotalers from Georgia 🙂 . We jumped back on our bikes and continued three miles south to Fontainebleau State Park where we planned to eat a picnic lunch.

Pier on Lake Pontchartrain

Entering the state park, the ranger waived us through without charging us a daily use fee. I’m not sure whether he assumed that we were over 62 or whether there’s no charge for bicyclists 🙂 . We rode through the park and down to the shore of Lake Pontchartrain where we parked our bikes and found a nice spot to enjoy our lunch. Although it was a little breezy, the temperature was close to 70 degrees, and a young man was learning to paddleboard in the murky waters stretching toward the horizon. We spotted pelicans diving for their lunch and marveled at the expansive 24-mile bridge connecting Mandeville to New Orleans. After eating our lunch, we walked out on the fishing pier and then biked over to the restrooms at the campground before resuming our ride on the Trace.

Cypress Knees

The stretch from Fontainebleau SP to Lacombe was remote and marshy. There were cypress knees in the swampy waters along the trail, and we spotted a yellow flowering plant which we aptly named swamp flower since we didn’t know its true identity 🙂 .

Bayou Lacombe was the most stunningly beautiful area on the trail! There was a well-maintained restroom facility and drawbridge operator office located on the west side of the bayou. The southern waterway fed into Lake Pontchartrain, and boat docks lined the northern inlet toward the village of Lacombe. The ranger who manned the crane-driven drawbridge told us that there were several exclusive homes with large yachts further inland. Fortunately, we arrived to the crossing before 6 PM, which is when they raise the bridge for the night. Otherwise, we would have had to turn around and bike back to the previous highway crossing to bypass the drawbridge.

Lacombe Bayou

After leaving the bayou, we rode 7 miles east to the Slidell Trailhead, which is actually 4.5 miles from downtown Slidell. Currently, the trail ends near a busy shopping center, and we decided that it was too dangerous to bike along the highway to our hotel. We called Uber and were rejected at least twice because the drivers did not want to haul our folding bikes. Finally, we got a driver with a large SUV, and we loaded the bikes with no trouble.

We checked into the Best Western Plus about 6 PM and pushed our bikes down to our room, which fortunately was located on the first floor. After a quick change of clothes, we hailed another Uber car to take us to New Orleans. Our driver was British and extremely friendly and helpful. He gave us good advice about when/how to visit New Orleans and some safe tips for taking Uber back to our hotel later that night.

Streetcars on Canal Street

It took about 35 minutes to drive across Lake Pontchartrain to the corner of Canal Street & St Charles Street in the heart of New Orleans. As soon as we stepped out of the car, I felt much safer than I had during my previous visit to New Orleans about 20 years ago. Canal Street was so lit up that it looked almost like daylight, and there were police and streetcar monitors everywhere.

Eating Beignets @ Cafe du Monde

We took a streetcar for a few blocks and then walked toward Decatur Street to Café du Monde where we each ordered three French beignets and milk 🙂 . Realizing that Aunt Sally’s, home of the New Orleans famous pralines (pronounced prawline in New Orleans), was closing soon, I left Joyce at the café and scurried next door to purchase boxes of the decadent sweets to carry back home. I rejoined Joyce where we gorged ourselves on the powdered sugar covered beignets while listening to the jazz band playing on the sidewalk next to the cafe. Deciding that we were no longer hungry for dinner, we walked back to Canal Street where we boarded another streetcar that made a loop down St. Charles Street toward Tulane University. Although it was dark and the ride was longer than expected, we enjoyed seeing the magnificently decorated southern homes along the route. When the streetcar returned to Canal Street, we called Uber and rode back to our hotel in Slidell. We arrived at the Best Western after 11 PM…yawn!