When I first began cycling it was strictly mountain biking (and limited to the very few trails that I knew). It took a while for me to buy a road bike. What I found was that, even though my first love was mountain biking, I ended up putting thousands more miles on my road bike. I guess because it was so much more convenient and a way to accumulate miles...which in turn made me a better mountain biker. I'm going to be honest, though. I never truly loved road riding...not like the love I have for mountain biking. Personally, I think it is significantly more dangerous than mountain biking. Sure, there are obstacles in your way on the trails, but the only moving thing you really have to worry about is yourself. Not the case on the road...and, as anyone who has ever seriously done any road riding knows, it is shockingly scary just how many drivers are paying attention to everything...except the road. Yet I pedaled on, because I love cycling and mountain biking every day just isn't a realistic option. Then, in late 2019, a switch flipped in my head.
The shift in my thought process happened on December 1, 2019. My wife and I were visiting a relative in Augusta, Georgia. Robin had been looking forward to spending time with her cousin Mitzi and studying their family tree. As usual, I had my road bike with me, so I went out to explore Augusta...which was a totally new area to me. My ride took me on heavily trafficked roads and shopping centers. I eventually turned down a hill towards the Savannah River separating Georgia and South Carolina. The history nerd in me wanted to check out the old Augusta Canal Locks. After getting my "nerd" on and taking a few pics I realized that I was within feet of the Augusta Canal Trail that would parallel the river and take me into the heart of Augusta. Every ounce of me wanted to check it out, but there was absolutely no way that my road bike would have been able to handle the surface of the trail. I felt limited in what I could do and I didn't like it. It was, at that moment, that I decided that I wanted (needed) a bike that could go anywhere.
|Augusta Canal Locks -- December 1, 2019|
Purchasing a gravel bike was no easy thing to reconcile in my mind. I've been riding, by this time, my road bike for almost a decade. And when you hear the term "gravel bike" your mind almost immediately thinks of dirt/gravel road riding....which never really appealed to me. In my mind, if I was going to make the effort to drive to the local State Forests to ride my gravel bike I would rather just have my mountain bike and hit the single track. But, I really hated being limited as to where I could ride...so I became the proud owner of a 2021 Specialized Diverge. Yes, it's a gravel bike...and I have used it as such...but I tell everyone it is my "go anywhere" bike...and I absolutely love it.
|My first gravel bike... a 2021 Specialized Diverge. -- October 22, 2020|
It took some time to get used to. A gravel bike is NOT a road bike...so my average riding speed decreased a little (which is no big deal to me) but eventually this bike became an extension of my body. And now that I could "go anywhere" I began using the local rail trail as part of my rides...which is something that I wouldn't have done on my road bike. Surprisingly, this led to yet another shift in my evolution as a cyclist. I found that, even though mountain biking is STILL my first choice and first love, riding designated bike paths or "rail trails" was really fun. Let's be clear...not riding the same trail over and over again...that's boring as hell...but now I constantly try to find different bike paths in different areas and cities to ride. Most of these bike paths have been built to highlight the uniqueness of the area and are a great way to experience the different towns, their histories, and their own slice of America. Since October of 2020, I've thoroughly utilized these bike paths...most of the time solo, often with my wife, and on occasion a few of the guys that are in my biking circle.
I'm having a blast and it is an awesome way to compliment my mountain biking.
|The meeting of the York County Heritage Trail and the Northern Central Railroad Trail at the Mason/Dixon Line. My bike is pointed north into York County, Pennsylvania. -- August 3, 2022|
I put both of these trails together simply because they are extensions of each other and, when ridden together in their entirety (from one end and back), you can earn that coveted 100 mile (century) ride. York County, Pennsylvania's part of the trail meanders through the historic town of York, Pennsylvania, through the rolling farm fields of South Central Pennsylvania, past Hanover Junction (where Abraham Lincoln passed on his way to Gettysburg in November of 1863), through the small towns of Seven Valleys, Glen Rock, and New Freedom...ending at the Mason/Dixon Line.
Maryland's NCR Trail picks up where the York County Heritage Trail ends. Ridden north to South, the NCR Trail has a significant downward slope as it approaches the Hunt Valley area north of Baltimore. There are no major towns to experience, but the path winds through scenic Gunpowder Falls State Park.
|Mile 0 of the Northern Central Railroad Trail near Hunt Valley, Maryland. -- August 3, 2022|
|Locals near the NCR Trail provide snacks for riders on the trail. -- August 3, 2022|
|Hanover Junction -- August 14, 2022|
|The York County Heritage Rail Trail passes the York Colonial Complex. In the background you see the York County Colonial Courthouse. -- November 20, 2021|
|Riding the north section of the York County Heritage Rail Trail (headed south towards York, PA. The trail follows the Codorus Creek for a long stretch. -- November 20, 2021|
|The Capital Area Greenbelt passes near the Pennsylvania State Capitol building. -- June 4, 2022|
The Capital Area Greenbelt, a designated bike path the circles Pennsylvania's capital city, is a really fun option for me. Only 20 minutes up the road from my house, this is a really fun (and not very flat) 24ish mile bike ride. The trail moves through Harrisburg's River Front Park, over the hills of Wildwood Park, past sections of the old Pennsylvania Canal, near the Capitol Building, and, if you choose, around City Island.
|Riding the Capital Area Greenbelt along the Susquehanna River with my wife, Robin. -- October 24, 2020|
|The frozen Susquehanna was in credibly beautiful during this frozen ride on the Capital Area Greenbelt -- January 23, 2022|
|My favorite view of Pennsylvania's Capital city, Harrisburg from City Island. The pedestrian bridge linking the island to the city leads directly to the Capital Area Greenbelt -- November 14, 2020|
|Friends on the Capital Area Greenbelt (Ben Kelly, Dave Raymond & Clark Evanitus) -- August 5, 2022|
|Looking west across the Susquehanna River towards Wrightsville, PA. -- November 25, 2020|
The old Memorial Bridge connects Wrightsville, Pennsylvania (York County) and Columbia, Pennsylvania (Lancaster County). It's my favorite way to access the Northwest Lancaster River Trail which traces the Susquehanna River from Columbia to Falmouth. The 14.2 mile trail passes through a lot of Lancaster County history and beauty. It's a linear trail, but has many twists and turns which make it unique and fun to ride. And if you ride the entire trail, in both directions...and if you do as I do, and park on the York side of the river and access the trail from the bridge, you can easily get in a 30+ mile ride.
|Checking out the interior of an old iron furnace alongside the Northwester Lancaster River Trail -- November 25, 2020|
|One of the most unique features along the Northwest Lancaster River Trail is an area known as the White Cliffs of Conoy. It's not a natural formation...rather the result of a nearby quarry. Basically, it's an industrial waste tourist attraction...but it is really beautiful and offers an amazing view of the river. -- November 26, 2020|
|Enjoying the view of the Susquehanna from Lancaster's "industrial waste tourist attraction," the White Cliffs of Conoy. -- April 5, 2021|
|A family bike ride on the Northwest Lancaster River Trail. My wife, Robin, is in the lead pulling our granddaughter, Scarlett. -- July 16, 2022|
|Checking out a building that is a remnant of Lancaster County's railroad industry along the Enola Low Grade Trail -- August 24, 2022|
If you don't mind riding a heavily trafficked road (with no shoulder) you can connected the Enola Low Grade Trail to the Northwest Lancaster River Trail. I did that once...and I'm not interested in doing again. Too many trucks and not a lot of room. The main trailhead or the Enola Low Grade is at the Turkey Hill Nature Preserve. There is plenty of parking and restrooms. This trail, made of crushed and packed gravel, provides incredibly scenic views of the Susquehanna River and the Safe Harbor Damn. If you are lucky you'll see plenty of Bald Eagles flying overhead. As of the time of this writing, the Enola Low Grade Trail is currently under construction and ends short of Quarryville. Ridden out and back you will accumulate just short of 20 miles...but it is really pretty.
|The entrance to the Enola Low Grade trail located at the Turkey Hill Nature Preserve -- May 25, 2021|
|Approaching Safe Harbor Damn on the Enola Low Grade Trail -- August 24, 2022|
|Riding the Enola Low Grade Trail with my wife, Robin -- July 30, 2022|
|A spectacular view of the Susquehanna River from the Enola Low Grade Trail -- July 25, 2022|
|Showing of Lancaster County's Railroad history along the Enola Low Grade Trail -- May 25, 2021|
|D&L Trail -- April 30, 2022|
Jim Thorpe is one of the coolest towns in Pennsylvania and it is where I chose to start my adventure on the D&L Trail. The trail follows the Lehigh River and the train tracks north (and up) to the town of White Haven. This is one of those trails that offer train rides from Jim Thorpe up to White Haven for you and your bike so that you can experience a fun 25 mile "downhill" ride. I just chose to ride up to White Haven and then back down for a super cool 50-miler. Along the way I was able to explore waterfalls, remnants of canal locks, wave at passing trains, and experience the natural beauty of Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley.
|D&L Trail on the right and the Lehigh River on the left -- April 30, 2022|
|Crossing the Lehigh River on the D&L Trail -- April 30, 2022|
|Passing a train on my way up the D&L Trail -- April 30, 2022|
|Exploring an old canal lock along the D&L Trail -- April 30, 2022|
|The train station in Jim Thorpe, PA -- April 30, 2022|
|Riding the D&L Trail, headed back towards Jim Thorpe, PA -- April 30, 2022|
|Pennsylvania's Abandoned Turnpike -- November 6, 2021|
Creepy and Post-Apocalyptic are two adjectives that could be used to describe the stretch of Pennsylvania's Abandoned Turnpike in Bedford and Fulton Counties. I just think it is freaking cool. The forgotten stretch of highway stretches from Breezewood to Waterfall, Pennsylvania. The Turnpike Commission chose to reroute the road in in 1968 in order to increase traffic flow in increase usage of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Since that time, this old stretch of America's first "superhighway" has been left to the elements and seemingly millions of teenagers armed with spray paint. Over the years, it has been used for military training and was even featured in the 2009 move, THE ROAD.
Some caution needs to be taken before embarking on this unique adventure. The tunnels are dark. I mean really dark. The ambient light at each end of both tunnels (yes, you get to ride through two abandoned tunnels) will end within 100 feet of the entrance. Make sure that you are equipped with proper lights. The road itself has not been maintained in over 60 years and the old paved surface is cracked and very uneven. Finally, if you are easily offended by phallic graffiti, this is not the ride for you. You can expect to see spray painted dick and balls about every few feet. With all that being said, this is one of my favorite rides. And if you aren't into cycling, this is easily hiked and the first tunnel is only 1.5 miles from the trailhead in Breezewood.
|Gates and cement barricades prevent motorized vehicles from traveling on the Abandoned Turnpike. It is open for cyclist and hikers...at your own risk. -- June 6. 2022|
|Enter the Pennsylvania Abandoned Turnpike...if you dare! -- June 6, 2022|
|The light at the end of the tunnel. Literally. -- November 6, 2021|
|Tunnel graffiti -- November 6, 2021|
|The uneven, cracked, and broken pavement that make up the Abandoned Turnpike. -- November 6, 2021|
|More tunnel graffiti. The small speck in the distance is the light at the other end of the tunnel. -- November 6, 2021|
|Lots of dicks and balls -- June 6, 2022|
|Lebanon Valley Rail Trail -- August 20, 2022|
Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania is a super unique town located in Lebanon County. It is one of the towns that the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail passes near. This crushed gravel trail is only about 14 miles (28 ridden in both directions) but is very scenic...passing through wooded areas and farm fields.
|Sunflowers along the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. -- August 20, 2022|
|The Root Beer Barrel is a great place to stop for a snack along the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. -- August 20, 2022|
|Stony Valley Rail Trail -- July 5, 2022|
It is scenic, rustic, visually stimulating, and completely off the grid. Don't expect any cell service and don't expect to see many people on the Stony Valley Railroad Trail. It's also not the easiest place to find. Located in State Game Lands northeast of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania...the dirt road that leads to the trailhead is barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other.
What you will find here is dense forests, endless beauty, and a lot of peace and quiet. If you know where to look, you can explore the remains of a 19th century resort, Cold Springs, which was once a destination for the elites of Harrisburg. The Appalachian Trail also passes through the area and use a small section of the Stony Valley Rail Trail. About 15 miles into the trail you will see a sign indicating the history of the town of Rauch Gap...a coal mining town that existed from 1828 to 1910.
|Riding with Stony Valley Railroad Trail with my wife, Robin. -- June 5, 2022|
|Remnants of Cold Springs Resort near the Stony Valley Railroad Trail. -- June 5, 2017|
|Hanging out where Rauch Gap once existed. -- July 5, 2022|
|The Cumberland Valley Rail Trail -- August 25, 2022|
Traversing the valley between two huge mountain ranges in south-central Pennsylvania, and stretching from Newville to Shippensburg, the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail was a surprisingly fun ride. Along the way, you have spectacular views of the Appalachian Mountains, vast farm fields, and plenty of newly placed historical signs promoting the history of the Cumberland Valley. As I approached the college town of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, the trail was lined with bicycle and industrial themed art. Very unexpected, very cool, and very fun.
|The Cumberland Valley Rail Trail -- August 25, 2022|
|A sample of the art lining the the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail near Shippensburg University. -- August 25, 2022|
|Shippensburg University -- August 25, 2022|
|The Cumberland Valley Rail Trail ends just northeast of Newville, PA. According to the sign, there are plans to extend it further. -- August 25, 2022|
|PJ's Kitchen provided an absolutely amazing lunch after riding the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail. I will definitely be returning! -- August 25, 2022|
|Mile 0 of the Baltimore - Annapolis Rail Trail -- August 29, 2022|
The Baltimore-Annapolis Rail Trail links Glen Burnie, Maryland to Annapolis, Maryland. The entire trail is paved, heavily used by joggers, walkers, and cyclists, and very easy to ride. I was honestly a little disappointed that the Annapolis end of the trail ended at the highway and not in Annapolis itself. It is, quite possibly, that I just didn't find the correct way to easily get there.
|The Baltimore - Annapolis Rail Trail -- August 25, 2022|
|Crossing over the interstate on the Baltimore - Annapolis Rail Trail -- August 29, 2022|
|The Masonic Lodge in Glen Burnie, Maryland -- August 29, 2022|
|Watching airplanes land while riding the BWI Trail. -- August 31, 2022|
This was a totally cool and unexpected bike ride. I've been to Thurgood Marshall-BWI Airport countless times...and until two weeks ago I had no clue that there was a bike that the traces the circumference of the airport grounds. The trail is only 11-ish miles so I rode around the airport in one direction and then turned around and circled back. Even though the trail is in a heavily trafficked and densely populated area, is very well marked, and completely safe. The trail also connects directly to the Baltimore-Annapolis Trail. I parked at the Thomas A. Dixon, Jr. Aircraft Observation Area which allowed me to watch numerous planes land. Super cool.
|The BWI Trail is very well marked. -- August 31, 2022|
|Riding the BWI Trail with the airport in the distance. -- August 31, 2022|
|The East Bay Bike Path in Providence, Rhode Island. -- July 19, 2022|
I had always wanted to visit Rhode Island...and this past summer, for our anniversary, my wife and I did just that. With gas sky high, we put our bikes on the roof of the Chevy Cruze (instead the the Silverado) and headed to Providence, Rhode Island for a week. We saw a lot of cool stuff. Really cool stuff like The Breakers (the summer "cottage" of the Vanderbilt family)...ocean waves crashing on rock cliffs...Rhode Island's historic Capitol Building...and ate in the oldest tavern in the United States, the White Horse Tavern.
Robin and I also took what is, to date, Robin's longest bike ride on Rhode Island's East Bay Bike Path. The path stretches 15 miles from Providence to Bristol, Rhode Island. The trail traces the shoreline of Narragansett Bay offering amazing views of the lighthouses and natural formations in the area. We rode the path from Providence to Bristol (and back). It was so much fun and I was so glad to share the experience with my wife.
|Riding alongside the Narragansett Bay on the East Bay Bike Path with Robin -- July 19, 2022|
|Bristol, Rhode Island -- July 19, 2022|
|A lighthouse in the Narragansetts Bay. -- July 19, 2022|
|Enjoying the East Bay Bike Path in Rhode Island. -- July 19, 2022|
|Schuylkill River Trail -- August 1, 2022|
The Schuylkill River Trail is pretty amazing. It stretches 120 miles from Frackville to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It passes through rural, urban, agricultural, and industrial landscapes. And there is history, too. A ton of it. I chose to ride the section between Valley Forge, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. I thought it would be a super cool (and nerdy) ride from the birthplace of the American Army to the birthplace of our democracy. The trail didn't disappoint and led directly to the steps of the Art Museum in Philadelphia. From there, I was only a few miles from Old Philadelphia and Independence Hall...so I followed the incredibly well marked bike paths on the streets of Philadelphia to get there. It was an incredibly fun and rewarding bike ride.
|My starting point for this ride was Valley Forge National Historical Park - August 1, 2022|
|A passing train on the Schuylkill River Trail -- August 1, 2022|
|Nearing the city of Philadelphia. -- August 1, 2022|
|The famous steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. -- August 1, 2022|
|My mandatory photo with the Rocky Balboa statue. -- August 1, 2022|
|Pedaling towards Center City Philadelphia and City Hall on my way to Independence Hall. -- August 1, 2022|
|Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- August 1, 2022|
|Point State Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania marks the beginning of the Great Allegheny Passage. -- August 13, 2021|
The Great Allegheny Passage is nothing short of epic. Last summer, over a period of four day, I rode the 360ish miles from Pittsburgh to George Washington's Mount Vernon via the Great Allegheny Passage, the C&0 Canal Towpath, and the Mount Vernon Trail. I wrote about that journey in a previous post, so let's just focus on each of these trails individually.
|Crossing the Great Gorge in Ohiopyle State Park on the Great Allegheny Passage. -- June 17, 2022|
The Great Allegheny Passage stretches approximately 150 miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cumberland, Maryland. Ridden in that direction, the first 120 miles are an uphill grade to the Eastern Continental Divide. The last 25 mile descent into Cumberland, Maryland feels pretty darn good after that. Leaving the city of Pittsburgh, the GAP makes it's way alongside the Monongahela River passing through multiple steel mill towns before turning and following the Youghiogheny River. The nice thing about the first 70ish miles of the GAP is that you pass through one of these towns every 10-15 miles which provides plenty of opportunity to pick up a drink or a snack. Once past Ohiopyle, these stop-overs become more sparse. Reaching the Eastern Continental Divide is a rewarding experience (after all, you've just pedaled uphill for 120 miles). The descent from Savage Mountain into Cumberland, Maryland is incredibly beautiful. The Great Allegheny Passage ends where the C&O Canal Towpath begins at Canal Place in Cumberland.
|Crossing the railroad tracks on the Great Allegheny Passage. In the distance, on the left, you see McKeesport, Pennsylvania. -- August 13, 2021|
|Passing the headquarters of British general Edward Braddock on the Great Allegheny Passage. -- August 13, 2021|
|Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania -- August 13, 2021|
|Old stone walls built by 19th century settlers along the Youghiogheny River are still visible from certain areas of the GAP. -- June 17, 2022|
|The Eastern Continental Divide -- August 12, 2022|
|Straddling the Eastern Continental Divide. The map behind me shows the elevation map of the Great Allegheny Passage. -- August 12, 2022|
|The stunning view from Savage Mountain before descending 25 miles into Cumberland, Maryland -- August 12, 2022|
|Canal Place in Cumberland, Maryland. Mile 0 of the Great Allegheny Passage and the northern most point on the C&0 Canal Towpath. -- August 14, 2021|
|The C&O Canal Towpath -- August 15, 2021|
The C&O Towpath is a 184.5 dirt/stone path that stretches from Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland. Riding from Cumberland to Georgetown, the path is flat and has a ever so slight downhill grade. That doesn't make it an easy ride. Parts of the Towpath near Harper's Ferry, Brunswick, and Georgetown are maintained well. Other parts, especially passing through Maryland's Green Ridge State Forest look more like mountain bike single track. Regardless, you can't ignore the amazing history of the area. The old canal is still there...filled with stagnant water. Maryland and Virginia historical markers indicate the Civil War history that is abundant in the area. Unlike the Great Allegheny Passage, don't expect many places to stop and refuel. At least, not until you reach Hancock, Maryland. The closer you are to the Georgetown end of the trail the more towns you will see. You will pass dozens of old canal locks, canal houses, and aqueducts. The C&O Towpath also passes through Paw Paw Tunnel....quite the experience and a lot of history.
|Leaving Cumberland, Maryland (my birth city) on the C&O Towpath -- August 14, 2021|
|One of dozens of Canal locks on the C&O Towpath. -- August 14, 2021|
|My mountain bike would have been more appropriate for this section of the C&O Towpath passing through Green Ridge State Forest. -- August 14, 2021|
|About to enter Paw Paw Tunnel. -- August 14, 2021|
|I tried to ride though Paw Paw Tunnel...but after a few feet I got nervous and just walked the rest of it. -- August 14, 2021|
|Passing near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia on the C&O Towpath. -- August 15, 2021|
|The mid-point of the Towpath. -- August 15, 2021|
|Hands down, my favorite section of the C&O Towpath -- August 15, 2021|
|C&O Canal wildlife -- August 16, 2021|
|A canal boat replica near the Towpath -- August 16, 2021|
|Riding a section of the C&O Towpath with my friend Lynn Nichols -- August 16, 2021|
|Nearing Georgetown and passing near Great Falls. -- August 16, 2021|
|Entering Georgetown on the C&O Towpath and nearing mile 0! -- August 16, 2021|
|Welcome to Washington, D.C.! This sign, on the Virginia side of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, marked the beginning of the Mount Vernon Trail. -- August 16, 2021|
The Mount Vernon Trail is an 18 mile trail connecting Georgetown to Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. The trail twists and turns along the Potomac River providing views of the Lincoln Memorial and other national landmarks. The Mount Vernon Trail also utilizes the streets of Old Town Alexandria. The closer you get to George Washington's Mount Vernon, the more difficult the trail becomes moving up and down hills. For me, the payoff was worth it...arriving at the home of our first President.
|A view of the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument from the Mount Vernon Trail -- August 16, 2021|
|A tunnel leading out of Old Town Alexandria makes up part of the Mount Vernon Trail. -- August 26. 2021|
|Parts of the Mount Vernon Trail cross over the swampy areas near the Potomac River. -- August 16, 2021|
|Arriving at George Washington's Mount Vernon. -- August 16, 2021|
|My friend, Matt Briney, allowed me and my bike (both incredibly muddy) onto the grounds of Mount Vernon. -- August 16, 2021|
|My huge payoff at the end of the Mount Vernon Trail. Thank you, Matt! -- August 16, 2021|
LIFE IS A JOURNEY NOT A DESTINATION...
David A. Raymond -- September 9, 2022
|Enjoying some ice cream at Canal Place in Cumberland, Maryland after completing my ride on the GAP and before continuing on the C&O Towpath. -- August 14, 2021|