Day 6 – Love those trails in the Triangle

I fell in love with the American Tobacco Trail and other trails in Durham, Cary and Raleigh.

american tobacco trail2

This was our last day — and what a glorious day it was. It was sunny and warm, I had a chance to catch up with a friend over 7 or 8 miles before he had to peel off — and then those trails!

They connected from Durham through Cary to Raleigh with almost no time on roads. They were straight, they curved, they swooped, they climbed … great variety. And they were well used, not only by cyclists.

I immediately fell in love.

Oh, if only more cities thought the same way.

Continue reading “Day 6 – Love those trails in the Triangle”

Building more of the East Coast Greenway

Another section of the Tobacco Heritage Trail is under construction.

Tobacco Heritage TrailWe rode another stretch of the Tobacco Heritage Trail on Wednesday, this time on the edge of Boydton, the county seat of Mecklenburg County — and population 431 in the 2010 census. Yes, we are biking through small towns, towns that certainly could use an economic boost that cyclists using the East Coast Greenway could provide.

We saw some trail under construction east of where we picked up this stretch of the Tobacco Heritage Trail, and it will eventually be another part of the East Coast Greenway. It’s always cool to see the East Coast Greenway become more off-road on these rides. But Tobacco Heritage Trail organizers, why wait to get some basic information onto the kiosk?

Empty kiosk American Tobacco Trail

The stretch of trail we rode Wednesday was just one mile long. Once we rode into Boydton, we essentially doubled back halfway on the road to our lunch spot. Hope the Copper Kettle puts up some yard signs by the trail to attract some riders. After Boydton (we saw one restaurant near the main square), it’s empty back roads (and no food) until Clarksville.

How empty?

This is from when gas sold for 65.9 cents a gallon:

old gas pump



Impromptu trail maintenance

The wooden bollard that keeps motorized vehicles off the Tobacco Heritage Trail in South Hill had been put in backwards at some point. We fixed that.

phone camera oct 7 2015 017

One of our riders has a sharp eye for the little stuff — in this case, East Coast Greenway arrows that pointed the wrong way. It was at the end of the off-road section of the Tobacco Heritage Trail as we reached South Hill on Tuesday night, and Rob Dexter vowed to fix it on Wednesday morning. I volunteered to come along to document this, and before I knew it we had become quite a little group.

Basically, the wooden bollard that keeps motorized vehicles off the trail had been put in backwards at some point, most likely when it was pulled out another time. The Tobacco Heritage Trail sign on the sloped part was facing the trail instead of the road, so those riding to the trail couldn’t see it. That meant the East Coast Greenway arrows were off too. So it was just a “simple” matter of someone (in this case, he-man Andy Hamilton) lifting the bollard out of its slot, giving it half a turn and putting the metal rod back in place.

phone camera oct 7 2015 016


Tobacco Heritage Trail

Here’s my assessment of the Tobacco Heritage Trail.

tobacco heritage trail

Finally got some trail riding today — we were on the Tobacco Heritage Trail from Lawrenceville west to the end, which seems to roughly be the Lacrosse/South Hill line. Yes, it’s part of the East Coast Greenway.

Here’s my assessment:

Much of the trail we rode is crushed stone and at times became very soft and sandy. I definitely felt it in the legs, and our pace was much, much slower. We were all thrilled when it turned to asphalt. (The trail pamphlet shows a long on-road stretch from Lacrosse west to Chase City.)

The trail amenities we saw are impressive. The bathrooms are these stand-alone structures large enough to accommodate someone in a wheelchair (not that a person in a wheel chair is going to be happy pushing through the soft surface, but maybe it was particularly soft because of the recent storm). Solar panel on the chimney, a motion sensor when you walk in the door that turns on the light. Not some smelly portapotty.

oct 6 2015 019

And I bet the horses love the soft surface. The trail caters to horse riders with these little steps to make it easy to mount your horse, and these places to tie up your horse. Not that we saw any today. Of course you could use this to mount your bike instead:

oct 6 2015 015

oct 6 2015 020

Of course there are picnic tables and historical markers along the trail.

There are few access points on the crushed-stone portion of the trail, unlike, say, the Delaware & Lehigh Trail south of Jim Thorpe. That makes it harder to use it for a short distance.

The Tobacco Heritage Trail hasn’t yet hit that tipping-point length when it becomes a tourist destination. The goal is to reach 150 miles of rail-trail, plus connecting corridors, as funding becomes available. It should be a draw well before then, giving the area some badly needed economic stimulus.

And food? We gave this place behind the trail in Lawrenceville a thumbs up:

lawrenceville restaurant


Day 3 – Quiet roads in rural Virginia from Petersburg to South Hill, Va.

72 sunny miles in rural Virginia

quiet roads2

A long but fabulous day: 72 miles on mostly quiet roads or trails. And sunny. What a contrast to Monday!

We cut Robert E. Lee’s last supply line as we headed south of Petersburg, leaving those chasing Lee and Grant’s ghosts to fade toward Appomattox while we headed southwest to South Hill.

This is rural southern Virginia, where towns have been left behind as the tobacco industry survives on life support and the interstate (I-85 in this case) saps their commercial life. Truly a case where a developed East Coast Greenway could bring some badly needed cash into these communities. We rode some of the time on U.S. 1. Where I live, it’s three scary lanes of traffic in each direction, and you’d be insane to bike on it. Here, traffic is insanely light.

Continue reading “Day 3 – Quiet roads in rural Virginia from Petersburg to South Hill, Va.”

This secret long-distance trail in Pennsylvania is one for the bucket list

I’ve discovered the Delaware & Lehigh Trail.


My last two-day training ride before the Week-a-Year was 70 miles along part of the Delaware and Lehigh Trail in northeastern Pennsylvania. And all four of us on this trip kept looking at each other and saying this is beautiful and why didn’t we know about it?

Here’s some of what it has: miles of thick tree canopy that offers shade on hot summer days and that no doubt will turn brilliant colors at peak leaf time, a gorge, the river, complete with rapids, remnants of the railroad line, down to an old signal, a nature center built on an old superfund site and generous trailheads with shelters and sometimes even toilets. Continue reading “This secret long-distance trail in Pennsylvania is one for the bucket list”

A bike overnight on Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River Trail

The Schuylkill River Trail, I think this could be eastern Pennsylvania’s version of the Great Allegheny Passage.

schuylkill trail

Pennsylvania is one lucky state.

It already has the amazing Great Allegheny Passage, that 150-mile rail-trail from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md., where it links up to the C&O Canal for those wanting to bike to Washington D.C.

After two days on the Schuylkill River Trail, I think this could be eastern Pennsylvania’s response. Admittedly, the trail isn’t completed and some completed sections are on quiet roads, rather than on paths. Nor will it be as long as the GAP. But even on the stretch we did — just over 50 miles from Conshohocken northwest to Reading, and then back — we had urban and rural, one-time industrial towns, some doing better than others, wide open and tree-covered paths, paved and crushed-stone surfaces, glimpses of river and a detour to history at Valley Forge. We even saw a row of four smokestacks, all that remains from an old factory. It could have been on the GAP.

Continue reading “A bike overnight on Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River Trail”

A month of trails

My month of trails: the Hudson River Greenway, the 606/Bloomingdale Trail and the Chicago Lakefront, plus the Lawrence Hopewell Trail by moonlight.

For me, August turned out to be a month of riding on trails.

First up: the Hudson River Greenway in Manhattan, as part of the bucket-list Manhattan Loop Ride with the East Coast Greenway. About 40 of us rode to almost the northern tip of Manhattan (and getting a look from below at the newly reopened High Bridge), then down along the Hudson, around Battery Park and up the East River Greenway until it peters out just south of the United Nations.

While there is a stretch along the river north of the U.N., it dies again at one point, and you need to know your way through Harlem to get to another piece of greenway — and then not miss the hidden sharp left halfway down the ramp to the Harlem River Drive. Close the gap and add some signs!

Here’s the group in front of a fake Grecian temple with the New Jersey Palisades in the background. This sitting area north of the George Washington Bridge was built in 1925.

manhattan bike ride

Then off to Chicago, where I took a Divvy Bike (Chicago’s bikeshare program) to check out the Bloomingdale Trail and the 606 (trail + parks). Just wonderful!

On the Bloomingdale Trail
On the Bloomingdale Trail

It is twice the length of New York City’s High Line, plus wider and open for bikes. Sweeping on-off ramps make it so accessible. The plantings are still going in so it’s not as lush (and won’t be as precious — but you can see the work of the High Line’s designer in the Lurie Gardens in Chicago’s Millennium Park).

And I finally got to bike along Lake Michigan too. I admit it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Chicago all over again.

August 2015 065

My East Coast Greenway training rides generally haven’t been that arduous this month — blame a lack of time. But I did bike down to the Shore again and again hit the few miles of trail that make up the stalled Capital to Coast Trail.

The month ended with a six-mile moonlight bike ride on part of the almost-finished Lawrence Hopewell Trail, which connects to the East Coast Greenway. Despite the full moon, there wasn’t enough light to cycle without a light (though some people certainly tried). I didn’t see any crashes, thankfully. The organizers smartly sent people headed off in waves, although there were still plenty of people to watch out for. You wondered when some were last on a bike! But at least they were on one!

August 2015 133

Loved being able to glance at the moonlit lake, even if I waited until the end to actually stop. The crunch of tires on gravel drowned out most of the sounds of bugs and other bits of nature. Next time I’d either start late or make sure I have enough power in my lights to do a second loop.

And one day I’ll make it to that moonlight ride around Manhattan.

In the meantime, a video from the Moonlight Ride:

What I’m already learning about Virginia bike trails

One article about a small section of trail in Virginia leads to the discovery of Virginia’s awesome plans for long-distance bike routes.

bike virginiaOne article in my Google Alerts, about a two-mile section of a Virginia trail called the Seaboard Coastline Trail, sends me down a rabbit hole.

It’s a trail I hadn’t heard of, in a town called Suffolk, in a part of Virginia I’ve never visited, so of course I want to know where it is and whether it’s part of the East Coast Greenway‘s coastal route (I think so, because another part of the trail is). To boot, this year’s week-long fundraising ride for the East Coast Greenway is mostly in Virginia.

But it gets better. Another article says the trail will eventually be 11.5 miles long and part of something bigger called the South Hampton Roads Trail, eventually a 41-mile trail between Suffolk and Virginia Beach. This same page from the regional planning commission describes two other trails that will go through the area, including one called the Beaches to Bluegrass Trail (B2B) that will traverse the entire state. And it’s supposed to be more than 400 miles long, though not necessarily all trail. It’s seen as one of six trunkline trails in Virginia (the East Coast Greenway is another).

The conceptual plan for that one was finalized late last year. Now I know these things take an awfully long time before they become reality. But linking trails makes each one more powerful — and would get someone like me to spend more time exploring the state on a bike (and boosting small-town economies.) I’ll be watching for updates and one day planning my ride.

%d bloggers like this: