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.

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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.

Day 3 – Heritage Rail Trail & Torrey C. Brown Trail: Railroad, PA to Cockeysville, MD (22.6 miles)

Garden Waterfall
@ Jackson House

This morning, we fastened our panniers on the bikes before breakfast so that we could get an earlier start. Again, breakfast at the Jackson House was fabulous – eggs Benedict, grapefruit, and fresh blueberries & local cherries 🙂 . Pam, the owner of the B&B joined us for breakfast this morning, and we enjoyed listening to her describe the history of the 1859 inn which she and her husband have managed for the past ten years. Before breakfast, she let us take a quick tour of all three floors; each room has a private bath and is decorated in Pennsylvania Dutch style with beautiful antiques and handmade quilts.

Gunpowder River

After breakfast, just before 9 AM, we started biking south. Our return trek to Cockeysville was approximately 22 miles and mostly downhill, except the first 1 ½ mile climb to New Freedom. As soon as we passed the state line, we started descending; I actually reached a speed of almost 15 mph, even carrying the loaded panniers. The Torrey Trail is much narrower than the Heritage Trail in Pennsylvania; it alternates between two lanes separated by a strip of grass to a single track. We stopped at the Monkton Station for a brief restroom break and met a local man who bikes the trail twice a week. I can’t imagine the luxury of living so close to a Hall-of-Fame trail!

Monkton Station

After Monkton, we pedaled the remaining 7 miles to Hunt Valley LLC where we had rented the bikes two days ago. The owner greeted us, offering to help us unload our gear and volunteering to drive us two miles to the Pennsylvania Dutch Market in Hunt Valley where we ate lunch and bought gifts to take back home. The Walmart-sized market was filled with Amish furniture, a bakery, and a smorgasbord of food prepared with fresh local produce. What a treat! Based on TripAdvisor recommendations, we both decided to order chocolate chip cheesecake for lunch. We purchased sampler-sized jellies that can be carried on the plane and then ate our cheesecake while sitting on the beautiful, handcrafted Amish rocking chairs in front of the market.

Pennsylvania Dutch Market

Prior to our trip, Dotty, one of our Clayton State retiree friends, insisted that we locate and purchase Berger cookies before returning to Atlanta. The shortbread cookies smothered in chocolate fudge icing are baked in Baltimore and sold in many of the local Maryland grocery stores. According to Berger’s website, the Giant store, located a few blocks north of the Amish market, carries the cookies. So, to fulfill our promise to Dotty, we schlepped our panniers through parking lots and along the sidewalks to the grocery store. After each purchasing two large boxes of the cookies, we realized that the outdoor heat would probably melt the icing before we could reach the Baltimore airport. One of the store clerks overheard our conversation and offered to bring us small bags of ice to place underneath the cookies 🙂 .

Realizing that the lite rail was due in about 15 minutes, we walked as fast as our 60-70 something legs would carry us in the 80+ heat to the Pepper Station. As we approached the loading platform, we saw a digital sign indicating that the next train would arrive in 2 minutes. In a state of panic and not wanting to wait an additional 30 minutes for the next train, we attempted to purchase an MTA card. Neither of us were successful at navigating the confusing, complicated machines which dispensed the tickets. Fortunately, Joyce noticed an announcement on the screen indicating that the MTA was offering free fares during a two week period in June, including today! By then, a train approached and we boarded it without giving thought to the fact that it might be headed in the wrong direction. Before reaching the next station, we asked a few of the passengers if we were on the train to the airport, and they directed us to the train on the adjacent track approaching from the opposite direction. We quickly deboarded, crossed the platform to the other side, and jumped onto the other train. Collapsing into our seats and unloading our 20 lb panniers onto the seat in front of us, we sat back and enjoyed the 90 minute ride to the airport. Although we had to walk at least a mile to our gate, there were separate security checkpoints for each concourse, which made the check-in process much faster and allowed us to reach our gate almost an hour prior to our flight.

While reflecting on our three-day trip, I am extremely thankful for good health which allows Joyce and me to make these journeys. As long as we are physically able and our husbands are willing, I think both of us are committed to biking as many trails as our bodies will allow!

Day 1 – Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail/Heritage Rail Trail: Cockeysville, MD to Railroad, PA (22.6 miles)

Train Signal on Torrey Brown Trail

In June 2015, we successfully completed our goal to bike all of the Hall of Fame trails; however, before we hardly had a chance to celebrate our accomplishment, the RTC awarded the distinction to four more trails 😦 . So, today Joyce and I resumed our quest by riding the Torrey C. Brown Trail from Cockeysville, a suburb of Baltimore, to Railroad, just above the Pennsylvania-Maryland state line. Although we had planned this trip for several months, I almost canceled at the last minute because I had to rush my 96-year old mother to the hospital the night before our departure. Thankfully, her diagnosis of shingles, unpleasant but not life threatening, meant that I could follow through with our travel plans.

This morning, with only an hour of sleep, I drove from my new home in Canton, Georgia down to Woodstock where I caught a shuttle to the Atlanta airport. Our Delta flight was scheduled to leave at 9:36 AM; however, after boarding the plane, we were told that the left engine required repair. Although this announcement was unsettling, I was still able to doze during the hour and a half that it required the mechanics to replace the faulty valve on the motor.

Upon arrival in Baltimore, we used Uber for the first time to arrange transportation from the airport to Cockeysville, approximately 30 miles north. Our young Asian driver initiated us to the Uber world by answering all of our questions about this new, popular means of transportation. The 40 minute ride passed quickly, and we agreed that Uber was definitely faster than the local lite rail system.

Martha & Joyce @
Hunt Valley LLC

Joyce had arranged our bike rentals with Hunt Valley Village LLC, an eclectic rental shop/petting zoo, which bordered the Torrey Trail. Jane, the owner, was extremely helpful as we loaded our panniers and gear onto the Schwinn hybrid bicycles. My husband will be proud of our ingenuity with using plastic zip ties to retrofit our panniers to the Schwinn bike racks. It took about 30 minutes to securely fasten our gear (panniers, cameras, GPS devices, etc.), but we were confident that the zip ties and bungee cords would keep our baggage secure for the next three days.

Hunt Valley LLC

At approximately 1:15 PM, we embarked on our 22+ mile ride to the Jackson House B&B in Railroad, PA, our lodging destination for the next two nights. The Torrey C Brown Trail, formerly the Northern Central Railroad Trail, derives its name from a previous DNR secretary who was instrumental in converting the rail line into a multi-use trail. The hard-packed gravel trail parallels the Gunpowder River, a tidal inlet of the Chesapeake Bay, for most of the 21 miles stretching north to the state line. Although the temperature rose to the low 80s, we felt a cool breeze riding along the tree-canopied trail.

Monkton Tube Rental

Our original plan was to bike 7.2 miles to the Monkton Station where we could rent tubes to float down the Gunpowder River. Unfortunately, our delay in Atlanta forced us to forgo the tubing; however, we hope that our schedule can be readjusted in order to squeeze in a brief float on our return ride through Monkton on Thursday. After chatting with the owner of the rental shop and some tubers in the parking lot, we resumed our bike ride and quickly noticed that the trail was now ascending at about a 2-3% grade. The next 14 miles from Monkton, MD to New Freedom, PA would be slightly uphill. Instead of focusing on the steady climb, I enjoyed listening to the birds and admired the hardwood trees and lush ferns which lined the trail. We spotted several rabbits and one deer as we pedaled north to the state line.

Little Falls

The next memorable stop was at Little Falls at MM 13. This scenic spot, carved by years of water flowing over massive rocks into a small cavern, was naturally framed by wild, orange day lilies growing profusely along the banks of the river. We took a brief break to soak in the beauty of the falls before resuming our uphill ascent. Bikers from the opposite direction seem to zoom by, reminding me of the load of my panniers on this uphill stretch. As we approached the state line, we expected to see a sign indicating the border; however, we entered New Freedom before realizing that we had already crossed into Pennsylvania.

Binky’s Ice Cream

The state line marks the start of the Heritage Trail, which spans northward approximately 21 miles to York, PA. We decided to eat dinner at Seven, a popular steak & seafood restaurant in New Freedom. My lack of sleep from the previous night was catching up with me so I appreciated the chance to stretch my legs, charge my phone, and savor the sirloin steak flatbread that I ordered for dinner. After our rejuvenating meal, we walked a couple of blocks to Binky’s – a much touted ice cream establishment, which resides in an old restored movie theatre. The lighted billboards displayed the name of the ice cream shop and the quote, “Don’t Grow Up; It’s a Trick,” instead of the title of the latest feature film. A snow cone stand occupied the original ticket booth, and the concession counter displayed a variety of ice cream flavors, including Zombie (chocolate peanut butter cookie dough), which was my selection. We ate our ice cream on the benches out front, and Joyce observed that this appeared to be the most popular place in town.

Jackson House B&B

After stuffing ourselves with dinner and ice cream, we pedaled the remaining 1 1/2 miles to the Jackson House B&B in Railroad, PA (every time I see the name of this town, I think of the board game Monopoly – not exactly sure because there’s no direct connection). Since we arrived to the B&B after hours, the manager had left our key on the kitchen table in the main hotel. She also left us homemade cookies and soft drinks 🙂 . We locked our bikes and carried our bags upstairs to a charming cottage, located adjacent to an 8 ft stone wall and man-made waterfall. The cottage had two beds, two reclining chairs, and a bathroom. It was equipped with a TV, fireplace, and a nice screen porch overlooking the small rural town.

I took a quick shower, plugged in all of my chargers, and collapsed onto the bed.