Packing for the ride

I’m packing up for the ride, hoping I don’t forget anything major. Any last-minute suggestions?

packingIt’s almost that time!

I’m packing up for the ride, hoping I don’t forget anything major. Yes, I once drove to a day ride without my bike shoes. Unlike my neighbor the project manager, I’ve been lax about a packing list and still need to pick up some spare tubes for my tires. Any last-minute-suggestions? (One advantage of riding a route that connects cities: how far will I ever be from a store?)

Unlike the self-supported rides I have done, the East Coast Greenway is hauling all the gear. Will I end up overpacking?

Then I head to Philadelphia Saturday afternoon for a pre-ride gathering with some of the other 39 riders.  And at 10 a.m. on Sunday, we start riding and I’ll find out if I did enough training. May it not rain all week, at least while I’m on my bike. (Got the rain jacket, got these Dutch “rain legs” that don’t smother you like pants would.)

Meanwhile, the ride has already raised more than $42,500 for the East Coast Greenway. Thank you to all who have supported me!

Thank you to all who have supported the East Coast Greenway

I’ve met my initial fundraising goal for the East Coast Greenway — so I’ve just increased it a bit.

I want to thank everyone who has so generously supported this fundraising ride for the East Coast Greenway. I’ve met my initial fundraising goal — so I’ve just increased it a bit. I don’t want to discourage anyone from contributing!

Asking and thanking

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. So I’m excited to see a number of “ask” (and “thank”) events as part of the Week-a-Year ride. Here’s what’s planned as of now.

East-Coast-Greenway-logoIf you don’t ask, you don’t get.

So I’m excited to see a number of “ask” (and “thank”) events as part of the Week-a-Year ride.

Here’s what’s planned as of now:

– A press conference with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a big supporter of trails. The state has just budgeted for the final phase of a 7-mile trail from Wilmington to New Castle and is doing planning work on a Wilmington-to-Newark trail. Nice!

– A rally in Perryville, Maryland, in support of a bike-friendly crossing over the Susquehanna River.

– Happy Hour with Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides and state officials. I’ll be thanking state officials for the just-opened bike beltway in Towson, Maryland, one of our overnight spots.  I’m hoping it can connect the East Coast Greenway and downtown Towson.

– A photo event and signage installation in Alexandria, Virginia.

Personally, I’d like to thank Philadelphia for the Spring Garden Street Greenway now in the works. It will connect the popular Schuylkill River route and the East Coast Greenway.

And I have a big ask for you: Please sign the petition for a bike-friendly crossing over the Susquehanna River between Perryville and Havre de Grace. Right now the choices for East Coast Greenway users are bus or taxi — or in our case, barge.

A North Carolina bike ride

We spent a long weekend in North Carolina, tasting out way through its famous barbecue and the Brit sampling many of Asheville’s craft beers. Of course I couldn’t resist trying out Charlotte’s bike-share system.

We spent a long weekend in North Carolina, tasting out way through its famous barbecue and the Brit sampling many of Asheville’s craft beers. Of course I couldn’t resist trying out Charlotte’s bike-share system. That included a ride on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, a waterway that until recently was a polluted mess and partially concreted over. Now it’s a welcoming linear park with fountains, benches and restrooms, a cleaned-up stream and some mixed-use development that seems to have been attracted by the still-uncompleted project.

The goal is a 20-mile trail to the South Carolina line that fits into a broader two-state network of trails near 2.3 million people (but not part of the East Coast Greenway, which goes through Raleigh quite a bit to the east). Yes, the power of connecting trails! We only rode a few miles, until B-cycle ran out, so this really isn’t much of a training ride. I hope B-cycle will keep following the trail past Freedom Park, and include directional signage to docking stations, particularly that one in the medical center that took us too long to find.

bcycleAs for the bikes: 3 speeds, like Citi Bike, but lighter. Easier to dock — definitely no temptation to slam it in just to make sure it locks. In fact locking and unlocking was far easier than in NYC. I like that you hear three beeps when it locks and you can get a confirmation text. Citi Bike, I’d be happy with just the text. The bike also has a proper basket (guess B-cycle cities don’t worry that their residents will treat them like trash cans) and a cable lock attached to the basket for running an errand where there is no docking station (something else Citi Bike doesn’t have.)

bcycle lockB-cycle is a different company than the one behind bike-share programs in big cities like New York and Chicago. There’s a Trek connection, and it has about two dozen second-tier cities signed up in the U.S. But there’s the same 30-minute limit for each ride when you have a day pass. We used seven bikes apiece in our explorations, and the coverage area was pretty limited.

And Charlotte? Pretty bike-friendly. There’s a nice, busy multi-use trail along much of its lone light-rail line (and lots of new condos too that seem dominated by Millennials, in case you needed visual proof that they prefer more of a city lifestyle to that of the suburbs). We biked quite a bit of it, until B-cycle ran out there too. On the whole, traffic wasn’t bad, especially when you’re used to New York City. And motorists are far more polite!

Maybe next year the East Coast Greenway ride will end in Raleigh and I can discover another part of North Carolina.

It’s a hill. Get over it.

This ride is just a few weeks away. Where did all the time go?

This ride is just a few weeks away. Where did all the time go? Unlike last summer, I wasn’t obsessed with getting in my training rides. Unlike my neighbor, I’m not disciplined enough to go out for a 20-mile loop no matter how late it is (and having done it with her one Friday night, I can say it’s in the dark).

Nope, it’s been mostly Citi Bike (let’s say their weight and general clunkiness means each mile counts more. Humor me.) and spin class. So I was thrilled that the Sourland Spectacular ride — 35 miles of hills through the Sourland Mountain forest and the scene of many of last year’s training rides — was pretty easy, 12 hours after that fast ride with the neighbor. I did it on my road bike, which helped. Definitely doing the flatter East Coast Greenway ride with it.

Got to love the T-shirt message from the ride. Take it whichever way you like. And now to cram in some more rides.



Back-to-back-to-back, plus a bit more

I really could call this one the power of ice cream.

power of ice creamI really could call this one the power of ice cream.

For me, it was three days in a row of 30 miles, plus a fourth of 5 miles to work, and another 5 back. Nothing too crazy.

This was the big weekend camping trip with some neighbors, and I knew I was combining it with some biking.

Three of us set off before 1 p.m. for Allaire State Park, where we were camping. Given that everyone else was coming by car, we were spared having to haul our gear and food. (No shortage of food!) We took it easy — one rider was the 16-year-old daughter of a fellow Week-a-Year rider and had been promised breaks every five miles. I slowed down, the breaks were short — all good.

And the 16-year-old voluntarily joined me and the Brit for a ride to the Shore the next day, though I don’t think she was expecting quite that long a ride. But she was away from her parents. All good. (The route was in part on a rail-trail that was supposed to be part of the Capital-to-Coast route. But unlike the East Coast Greenway, this one seems to have run out of steam. Too bad.)

No, the truly impressive day was the ride back. The 16-year-old was on board again. Her third straight day of 30 miles. Another neighbor joined us. And so did his son. This kid turns 8 in October. Yes, a 7-year-old biked the 30 miles of back roads with us.

Yes, the kid is an energizer bunny and particularly athletic. (No, the 16-year-old is not.) Yes, we stopped more often. And once the kid realized we’d be biking through a town where he knew there was an ice cream shop and dad agreed to take him, there was no way he was going to get sagged home by mom. So yes, that kept him going from mile 20 to mile 25.

And restored by ice cream, he biked the rest of the way home. Two hours later, I looked out the window and saw him on his bike again.

As I said, the power of ice cream.

And some other shots from the weekend:

yurtThe yurt, above, and some of our grilling, below:


shrimp on the barbie

bacon and kale


A weekend of back-to-back training rides

Sunday’s 30-mile ride left from Burlington City, NJ

Today we headed to Burlington City and met up with friends to do this ride, mapped out by NJDOT.

Burlington City claims a number of New Jersey firsts, but I am looking forward to the day the Delaware River Heritage Trail gets this far south and eventually connects to Philadelphia via Palmyra as an alternate route on the East Coast Greenway.

One cool highlight of our 30-mile loop: The factory town of Smithville, where the American Star bicycle was built in the 1880s. In that era of penny-farthing bicycles, this one apparently had the small wheel in the front, rather than the back, apparently to prevent you from tipping over. Not that the sculpture in the front reflected that.

smithville nj

But with the World Cup finals beckoning, a tour of the mansion and the truth of the design will have to wait for another visit.

Another fun site, this one in Mount Holly. Cute name, huh?

Mount Holly NJ

The bottom line from this weekend: Heat and back-to-back days is a tough combination. Last weekend I did two spin classes and a 30-miler. Thankfully a weeklong ride in October won’t be as hot. But I need to build up that endurance.

A bike ride to New Brunswick

My take on New Brunswick’s summer Ciclovia

New Brunswick is on the East Coast Greenway, but we took the road, not the towpath (and ECG), for this ride to check out New Brunswick’s Ciclovia (more than 3 miles of streets shut to motorists and opened to people to bike, play and more). While we knew the first few miles, we’d never been to East Brunswick and Milltown even by car. So the bike option on Google maps it was.

And it was a nice route on generally quiet, flat roads well to the east of U.S 1. On weekdays, a few spots might be a bit hairy, but Saturday traffic was light, even by shopping centers. We crossed U.S. 130 at a light — easy. And when we finally did encounter U.S. 1, the overpass over it was straightforward, and on the way back, the driver of a white Mustang on the off ramp slowed and waved us in front. Sometimes New Jersey drivers surprise you.

Total miles, including wandering around New Brunswick: 42.

Random people at New Brunswick's Ciclovia
Random family at New Brunswick’s Ciclovia

As for Ciclovia … it’s not Manhattan’s Summer Saturdays, but then New Brunswick doesn’t have the density of New York. It was great to see little kids on their bikes, and there were some cool spots, like a rock-climbing wall and a skateboard trick park, and of course a fire hydrant turned into a sprinkler. There was a dance contest for little kids, a repair spot from New Brunswick’s Bike Exchange and a mobile New Jersey Hall of Fame that I thought was cool (and not just because of the air-conditioning break on a hot, cloudless day). But it felt too spread out for the number of people we saw, and you found stuff more by chance, such as the Hall of Fame that was hidden at the end of a side street.

New Jersey Hall of Fame
Lots of Jersey roots

Ciclovia went beyond “downtown”, and it lacked a block party atmosphere in the neighborhoods.

So here’s my outsider’s take, fwiw: Ciclovia needs to be marketed more widely in the region, to get it filled up with people from neighboring towns, as happens with Communiversity is in Princeton, and to work with New Jersey Transit and New York bike groups to get the word out there and people coming down by train with their bikes. I’d open up space to every nonprofit that wants to be there, no matter where they are from, to help fill up the quieter spaces. I’d encourage downtown merchants to have sidewalk sales or bring restaurant tables outside. Actually, I’d have had it kick it off Restaurant Week, which we inadvertently discovered was also starting. Or play on the range of ethnic groups in New Brunswick and create a list of participating food stops and pitch it to the foodies. Honduran specialties, anyone?

And at one end, have a spot for teenagers and their bands, or high school bands, all of which would bring in their friends and families. It certainly works for our local farmers market. (Too bad there’s no Saturday market in New Brunswick that it could brush by from the side.)

But it’s also early days. New Brunswick’s first Ciclovia was last October, and this was the second of three planned for this year. Maybe it’s more crowded when Rutgers is humming with 41,500 students. And maybe it’s just a matter of time.

At any rate, it certainly was more popular than what we saw of Princeton’s Ciclovia in May, which took over a long stretch of underused roadway.

Training on the trails

I’ve gotten a slow start to training for this ride, though fittingly, most of my riding so far has been on trails.

Pine Creek trailI’ve gotten a slow start to training for this ride, though fittingly, most of my riding so far has been on trails.

It started with the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage plus a bit of the C&O Canal in May. (My friend Janet blogged it here).

Then the Brit and I spent one day biking 60 miles on the Pine Creek rail-trail in northern Pennsylvania, essentially due south of Corning, NY. It’s has some wonderful river views and really could be better promoted to capitalize on a length that is long enough to attract overnight visitors. But that tag of the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania”? Hyperbole, in my opinion. A nice gorge is what it is.

Fishermen wading in Pine Creek

Regardless, it’s a pleasant place to bike. Just wish there were working water pumps that didn’t come with warnings about water quality. A side effect of fracking?

I also took an early and long lunch to bike 10 miles of the D&R Canal/East Coast Greenway as part of the Cabot Community Tour from Jacksonville, Fla. to New York City.

Time to get serious. Spin classes and bike rides to the train station and work aren’t enough.

What I’m doing

You know I love to explore on a bicycle. And this year will include a great 325-mile adventure from Philadelphia through Washington and onto Fredericksburg, Virginia on the East Coast Greenway.

ready to travel You know I love to explore on a bicycle. And this year I’ll take a great 325-mile adventure from Philadelphia through Washington and onto Fredericksburg, Virginia. I’ll be participating in the annual fundraising ride for the East Coast Greenway, a nearly 3,000-mile route from the Canadian border in Maine to Key West in Florida for bicyclists and walkers. While the route is already mapped, it now uses a mix of trails and generally quiet roads. The goal is to have it entirely on paths separated from traffic. That makes it suitable for people of all ages and bicycling ability.

If I need any convincing about the power of that sort of trail, I can just look at the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile rail trail from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md., that was completed last year and which connects to the 185-mile C&O Canal to Washington. I’ve just come back from riding it with three others. We ran into so many other cyclists – and it’s not even summer yet. One of the many things that impressed me was the economic power that a long, signposted, car-free trail can have. We heard about the woman who started her B&B with just one house when the trail was just partially finished, then bought the one next door and is now adding a third because there is so much demand. The company that shuttled us back to Pittsburgh is debating buying another vehicle because of the business it is seeing. Many establishments we patronized simply wouldn’t survive in their small towns without this trail. No surprise, then, that others are trying to build trails that connect to the north and west.

This is also why I find the East Coast Greenway so exciting. It connects cities, making it an urban version of the Appalachian Trail. It’s equally suitable for short distances, such as getting to work, as for long adventures. And because it links up local trails, such as the D&R Canal towpath that is just a few miles from my house, each becomes more useful to locals and more of a lure to bike tourists, just as with the Great Allegheny Passage. (Oh, and bike tourists have money. Just ask the Great Allegheny Passage boosters.)

You can learn more about the East Coast Greenway at

I’ll be riding the 325 miles from October 5 to October 11 and have set a personal fundraising goal of $2,000. Every dollar will go to the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the nonprofit that oversees the creation of the East Coast Greenway, not to pay for my trip. I will be footing the bill for my hotel, food and travel. All donations are tax-deductible, and donations of $20 or higher will give you a year membership in the East Coast Greenway Alliance.

You can sponsor me online through this link or send me a check made out to the ECGA, and I will forward it. I’ll also be blogging about my training and the ride on this site, so come back for updates.

In the meantime, I hope you get out and enjoy the trails in your town.

%d bloggers like this: