Bicycling Adventures 2007 and prior

Last updated June 6, 2008



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Double Rail Trail Ride
On August 25, 2007, Norma and I planned a 40 mile double rail trail bike ride that ended up being a 28 mile ride followed by river tubing. The change of plans was due to the hazardous heat warnings where the heat index was expected to be over 100. I planned to reschedule the ride for November 17, 2007, a date when there would be no chance of cancellation due to heat. What I didn't expect was problems due to the cold.

About a week prior to the ride, I had 9 people signed up the event. But as the days drew closer, I lost more and more people. I would not cancel just due to the cold but I would if there was heavy precipitation or...more likely, difficulties with the car shuttle. With the start and end positions 45 minutes apart, transporting people and bicycles in one trip was essential. Norma and I did some last minute confirmations then decided the ride was still a go.

At 0730, Norma, Chris R., and I met at Paper Mill lot, just a half mile north of the southernmost end of the North Central Railroad Trail (NCRT). The temperature was about 37 degrees. Fortunately, there was no wind but I knew that as soon as we were to start riding, the wind chill would take effect. The perceived temperature would drop to the high 20s. Hence, I brought plenty of extra warm clothes in case any participants were lacking. Riding for an hour in cold weather can be bad but riding for several hours can be downright miserable.

The three of us piled in Chris' Jeep then drove to the northernmost end of the York County Heritage Trail (YCHT) in York. There we met with Norma's sister, Joyce. After some last minute checks, we were riding by 0845.

I know how to dress for hiking but not for biking. For hiking, I like to start out a little cold because I know I'll warm up. Wind chill is never a factor in calm weather but for biking it is. I knew to dress in layers and to avoid cotton. Guns don't kill people, cotton kills people. But within a few minutes I was starting to sweat. After 4 miles, we stopped at Brillhart Station where we removed some layers and used the porta-john. The porta-john was your typical plastic enclosure but it also had a wooden exterior outside of that. There was a bullet hole that went through the wood, into the porta-john, out the porta-john, and through the wood on the other side. Not a good place for target shooting.

We were off again with Chris and I in the lead. I admired various fall colors. See first photo at left.

We passed some cages containing various animals on the side of the trail in one area. I saw a black turkey that didn't quite look fat enough for Thanksgiving. We also passed some sheep and cows.

At Hanover Junction, (mile ~10 from the start in York) we make a quick accountability stop. Chris and I rode in one group with Norma and Joyce in another. See Norma and Joyce in the second photo at left. There was a piece of modern art near the station. See third photo at left.

The next several miles was probably the hardest for me. Chris keeps a pretty good pace and rides regularly. I, on the other hand, ride about once a season. I'm not so well conditioned for hills and though the rail trail is mostly flat, it does have some incline/decline. For me, the last few miles to New Freedom were the toughest as they led to the highest part of the trail. But once we were there, we rested, warmed up, and ate at New Freedom Railroad Cafe at 117 North Front Street, New Freedom, Pennsylvania 17349, phone: 717-227-0299. This little oasis is an ideal stopping point for anyone wanting to do the double rail trail ride since it is roughly midway on the 40 mile stretch. Some railroad cars were parked next to the building. See fourth photo at left.

I used to think that New Freedom was named because it is one of the first non-slave towns one would encounter when traveling north. According to a sign next to the cafe, it was actually named for Peter Free, the son of a German immigrant who purchased land there in the 1780s.

Continuing south, we rode on the steepest part (downhill, fortunately), across the Mason-Dixon line into Maryland. Now were were on the North Central Railroad Trail (NCRT). The scenery changed from small towns, open fields, and farmland to the forest land of Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Joyce stopped to collect some cuttings for her yard.

Our next stop was Monkton, which is about 32 miles from our start. Here I took more photos of the brilliant fall colors. See fifth photo at left. Chris chatted with some other cyclists.

We reached Paper Mill, where we originally met, then rode another half mile to the southernmost end of the NCRT. Can't say we did it all if we don't do this extra half mile also. See me at the end of the trail in the sixth photo at left.

By 1530, we were done. Yes, it took a long time but we ride at different speeds and I like to take head counts regularly.

Norma and I drove Chris, Joyce, and all the bikes back to York. There, we caught a bite to eat Sam and Tony's Italian restaurant on Market Street.

It turned out to be not as cold as we originally expected but then again, we were well prepared so maybe it was very cold, but we just didn't notice.
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North Central Rail Trail Biking and Tubing
Norma and I planned a 40 mile double rail trail bike ride that would enable participants to bike the full length of the York County Heritage Trail (YCHT) and the North Central Railroad Trail (NCRT) in one day. This event would involve a car shuttle and three rest breaks, the last being for lunch. It was to be an all day affair. After putting this all together in a detailed plan, we posted this to the Maryland Outdoor Club (MOC) website.

The NCRT was completed in 1832. It carried passengers and freight between Baltimore, York, and Harrisburg for 140 years. After the decline of the railroad, the railroad bed was converted to a rail trail in 1984. Today, the Maryland portion of the trail is 20 miles long and is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, as part of Gunpowder Falls State Park. In 2007, the Board of Public Works approved the renaming of the NCRT to the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail. The board also approved the dedication of the trail's Monkton Train Station in honor of Dr. Brown, who served as the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) secretary under Governors Harry R. Hughes and William Donald Schaefer from 1983 to 1995. Brown was the major driving force in developing the abandoned North Central Railroad as the state's first multi-use recreational trail, which was dedicated in 1984.

York County, Pennsylvania manages an additional 20 miles from the Mason-Dixon line to York, Pennsylvania.

A couple of weeks after posting our event, the trip was maxxed out with 18 participants (including Norma and me). There were even 3 on the waiting list to get in. But as the event drew closer, folks started dropping out. With the weather forecast calling for temperatures in the high 90s, we were not surprised.

Maryland weather is difficult to predict so I waited until 0530 on the day prior to the event. If the heat index was calling for the low 90s, I'd probably go on with the event as planned. But this was not the case. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued the following hazardous weather outlook warning:

In the Marines, we have what we call "black flag days." This is when the temperature, humidity, and other factors are taken into consideration and a "no physical training" warning is issued. I don't understand the formula for determining such a day but I knew August 25, 2007 (the day of our event), would be a black flag day.

The folks who signed up for our event made time in their busy schedules to get outside and have fun. I didn't want to turn them away but I also didn't want to put anyone in danger. I consulted Weather Underground, which breaks down the forecast into two hour intervals. I knew that before 1100, the temperature was expected to not be higher than 90 degrees.

I was now faced with a big decision. How do I show people a good time outdoors for most of the day without putting anyone at risk of becoming a heat casualty? Fortunately, I knew the area well so I came up with a plan. I discussed it with my lovely and talented co-leader, Norma, and we decided to send out a message on Friday morning announcing a change in our plans.

We would bike from Monkton, Maryland, to New Freedom, Pennsylvania and back. This shorter route would allow us to finish before it started getting really hot. By cutting out the car shuttle in favor of a yo-yo route, we'd substitute our time driving with biking. After biking, we'd eat lunch. Later, anyone who wanted to join us could go river tubing down Gunpowder Falls in the afternoon. I expected us to be done by 1545. I sent out this announcement to the group along with directions to the new meeting place (a 10-15 minute driving difference as compared to the old place) and instructions on buying a river tube if they wanted to pay just a little more to own instead of rent.

Monkton is an interesting and popular place. It was originally called Charlotte Town and it began as a small village in the early 1700s. It flourished between 1740 and 1770. In 1765, it was renamed to "Monckton" by Robert Cumins, a wealthy miller in the Revolutionary War era. The 'c' in Monckton was later dropped by area residents.
-from trail sign

By the evening prior to our trip, almost everyone in our group replied. Norma contacted the ones who didn't by phone to inform them of the change.

Naturally, we lost a few participants who were more interested in the original route though nobody seemed to think our change in plans was an unwise or wimpy one considering the forecast. Had we followed the original plan, we would have spent at least 2 hours biking in the hottest part of the day!

On the morning of our event, I checked the forecast again. The heat index was expected to be in the 100's! Norma and I arrived at Monkton at 0715. There we met Amanda, Chris, Jeff, Lutz, Michael T., Michael E., and Michele. After introductions, reiterating the plan of the day, and showing our route on a very large map, we were off and riding at 0745. Our moving average pace on the way up was about 11 mph. I was the sweep. Michele's water bottle holder was falling off her rental bicycle but Lutz quickly fixed that problem with his micro-multi-purpose bicycle tool.

After crossing over into Pennsylvania, we switched riding the NCRT to the YCHT though we were on the latter for only about 2 miles.

We arrived at the town of New Freedom, Pennsylvania at about 0915. There, we took a 10 minute break. Norma and Amanda shared an ice mocha they purchased at the snack bar. I passed around some dried mangos. I then tried to take photos but my camera was fogged up. I made the mistake of putting it in a dry bag that rested next to some canteens full of ice and Gatorade. Hence, for a lack of photos, I'll describe our rest stop. New Freedom is a small town that is proud of its railroad roots. The rest stop is a small building that looks like a train station. Next to it was a refurbished rail car. On the way up we passed another refurbished rail car. Unlike the Maryland side, the Pennsylvania side is more open, less shaded, and less wooded.

I'm guessing New Freedom and the town just south of it, Freeland, got their names because the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania is known as the Mason-Dixon line. It separated the slave states from the free states. Thus, as one crossed into Pennsylvania, slavery was outlawed.

After our short break we headed back. Now Norma was the sweep. Chris (see first photo at left) and I led most of the way back, with a moving average of about 16 mph. Heading south, the trail was now a very gradual downhill. We stopped at a scenic area where we saw the water pass over some rocks. See second photo at left. Not sure if it was big enough to be considered a waterfall. There were signs warning us of snakes though I found none. See third photo at left. But on the way up, some folks saw a garter snake (not poisonous).

By now, my camera was defogged.

Michael E. was the first to catch up from the rest of the group (see fourth photo at left). A little later, most of the rest rolled in (see fifth photo at left). From left to right: Michael T., Michael E., Chris, Jeff, and Amanda. Lutz, Michele, and Norma brought up the rear. After making sure all 9 of us were accounted for, we continued.

Other than the snake, we saw nothing interesting in terms of animal life though there were some pretty flowers along the trail. See sixth photo at left.

Chris and I were in the lead again but Jeff passed us up and won the race...oh, wait a minute, this wasn't a race. Nonetheless, Jeff was fast. See seventh photo at left. A little later, Amanda and Michael T. rode in. See eighth photo at left. The group rode 28.33 miles, finishing at 1055 with no problems.

Next, we met at the picnic tables under some trees just north of the old train station building at Monkton. Some of the group bought lunch at the Monkton Village Market. They serve cold summer drinks, hot meals, and ice cream. All products are vegetarian and many are vegan or can be modified for vegan diets. See ninth photo at left for (shown from left to right) Jeff, Amanda, Michael T., Norma, Chris, and Lutz. In the tenth photo at left are Lutz and Michele.

By noon, we were done with lunch. Amanda, Chris, Michael T., and Michael E. bid farewell. The rest of us were ready to cool off in the river. So was a caterpillar that wanted to hitch a ride on a tube. See eleventh photo at left.

I rented one covered river tube. Though Norma and I have our own, we wanted one to carry the group's water bottles and personal items. Our non-covered tubes aren't so good for that. Lutz, Michele, and Jeff brought their own tubes. After putting all our gear in a big dry bag, we headed out.

We walked north on the NCRT for about a third of a mile then launched our tubes in the cold Gunpowder Falls at about 1220. After all the rain we had over the last few days, I expected the water to be much higher and dirtier from all the runoff. The good news is that the river was still very clear and the bad news is that it was still pretty low.

I brought my infamous super soaker water cannon which I used to get everyone wet...except Jeff. Just wait until next time Jeff!

Unlike tubing near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, tubing on Gunpowder Falls near Monkton is very benign. No real rapids and no personal floatation device (PFD) needed. For the route on which we floated, I'm not even sure if there is anyplace where one cannot touch the bottom of the river. It is a very relaxing trip and a fantastic way to keep cool. Though temperatures were well into the 90s, we were comfortable on the tubes. See Lutz and Michele in the twelfth photo at left.

We passed numerous attractive yellow flowers that dotted the shoreline. Much of the land on the sides of Gunpowder Falls near Monkton is privately owned yet this didn't detract from the scenery. We might see a house in the distance but along the river, things remained fairly natural.

After passing under the Monkton Road bridge, Jeff decided to take off after tubing about 1.5 miles with us.

Lutz, Michele, Norma, and I continued downstream, passing a large teepee.

The river gets used by river tubers such as us, along with kayakers and canoeists. We all learn to share the river just as the NCRT is shared by bicyclists, runners, walkers, and horses. See thirteenth photo at left. Notice Norma in the left and again in the fourteenth photo.

At the Corbett Road bridge, we got out after floating a total of about 2.8 miles. We quickly realized just how hot it really was once we left the river. I'm convinced our choice in modifying our original biking route was a good one.

Norma managed to spray me with my own super soaker. You know what they say about he who laughs last.

We deflated our tubes then walked 1.5 miles back to the start. Done by 1515.
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Vermont and New Hampshire
For a trip report of a week long hiking, biking, kayaking adventure in Vermont and New Hampshire, see Vermont and New Hampshire, August 2007.

Taylors Island
For a trip report of a three day event on the eastern shore of Maryland, see Taylors Island, 2007. The event includes some bicycling.

Pax Tri-Event
For a trip report of a four day Memorial Day weekend event led by Norma and me in the Patuxent (Pax) River area, see Pax Tri-Event, 2007. The event includes some bicycling.

York County Heritage Trail
On December 17, 2006, Lucas, Norma, and I went on a 23.11 mile bike ride on the York County Heritage Trail (YCHT). About a year ago, I biked the southern half of the trail up to Seven Valleys at mile 12. Today, the three of us would bike and scout the entire trail.

The lesser known York County Heritage Trail is a continuation of the The North Central Railroad Trail (NCRT). Both are "rail trails" which means they were built where a railroad one lay. What is confusing is that if that's the case, then why does a railroad still reside next to the YCHT? Perhaps there were once two sets of tracks. Rail trails and towpaths are known for being flat. Just how flat? Just read the rest of my report. For more information about rail trails, see Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

The forecast in York, Pennsylvania was 61 degrees and sunny. It doesn't get better than this.

We took Lucas' and my car to the Freeland lot on the NCRT near mile 18, only about 1.5 miles from the Mason-Dixon Line. My car was left at Freeland and we took Lucas' car, the three of us, and the three bicycles to John C. Rudy County Park between York and Manchester, Pennsylvania. I had read there were plans to extend the YCHT to the park and thought they might be done. However, once we arrived at the park, a local told us this was not the case.

We drove to the York City Lafayette Plaza parking lot on the west side of Pershing Avenue between West Philadephia Street and West Market Street. Immediately after parking, I checked Cordorus Creek to determine its suitability for kayaking. Not very least not in York.

After donning helmets, we began our adventure at 1110 from the northernmost point of the trail. Elevation: 421 feet above sea level according to my global positioning system (GPS).

Biking south, we caught the rail trail and left the city of York. The flat, small gravel covered, well maintained trail meandered along the South Branch of Codorus Creek, providing a calm, scenic view. We also passed farmland, seeing cows and chickens. I also saw something in a cage that looked like an arctic fox though it could have just been a small white dog. A donkey, horses, and a miniature horse about the size of a medium-large dog were also seen.

Between Brillhart Station and Glatfelters Station, we biked through Howard Tunnel which took us through a large rocky hill. This is the oldest continuously operational railroad tunnel in the world. It originally opened for traffic in 1838 and was rehabilitated in 2003. See first photo at left.

At various parking lots along the trail, I recorded information such as the number of cars the lots would hold, which had restrooms, which had water refill stations, nearby restaurants, etc.

Though I tend to like the greenery of spring and summer, the barren trees of winter made for excellent visibility and a more open feel.

At Seven Valleys, we stopped for lunch. The area is easily recognizeable by the three large old fashioned giant bicycle/tricycle sculptures alongside the trail. See second photo at left.

We stopped shortly after lunch at Hanover Junction. There's a small museum but there it was closed to the public for a private party. Hanover Junction was a chief point on the military telegraph line in 1863. See third photo at left.

On the southern half of the trail, we saw numerous large seeds/fruits on the ground whose name I still don't know. Norma and I saw a few of them on our November 2006 bike trip in Virginia.

We maintained a moving pace of about 11 mph. Closer to the beginning, we averaged closer to 13 mph and toward the end it was sometimes only 9 mph but Norma and me often got into short races along the way. Lucas kept a constant, steady pace.

The town of New Freedom was the last stop of the YCHT and also the high point in terms of elevation; 782 feet according to my GPS. Over the last 19.6 miles, we finished only 361 feet higher than we started. See fourth photo at left.

The last 3 miles into Maryland and the Freeland parking lot was definitely downhill (104 feet). Not much for most bicyclists but considering we were on a rail trail, that was a good bit of decline. It was nice to end the trip with a burst of speed...even if we got a little push from gravity. We were done at 1445.

We retrieved Lucas' car then went to historic Ellicott City where we walked around a bit then ate dinner at Johnny's Bistro on Main. I recommend their creme brulée dessert. Yum!
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Washington and Old Dominion Trail and Chesapeake and Ohio Towpath
For a trip report of two days of bicycling in Virginia on the W&OD Trail and in Maryland on the C&O Towpath, see November 18-19, 2006.

Catholic University

Red Pandas at play

Clouded Leopard

Very large cockroach

Very large spider

Rock Creek Park
On Veterans Day, November 11, 2006, Norma led me on a 13 mile bike trip in the Washington D.C. area. Though it was mid-November, the weather was sunny with highs in the mid-70s. We left from her home in Hyattsville then biked on some uncomfortably busy city streets to Washington D.C. then to Catholic University at Fourth Street and Michigan Avenue. See the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the first photo at left.

Next, we picked up Rock Creek Trail and biked to the National Zoo. We saw some red pandas at play (see second photo at left). Then, we saw a clouded leopard (see third photo at left). After waiting in a slow moving, long line, we ate a mediocre lunch (hint, pack your own). We saw a sloth bear. In the invertebrae building, we saw a cockroach and a golden orb weaver spider, both from Madagascar (see fourth and fifth photos at left).

After leaving the zoo, we biked to Georgetown, then to some museums. Then we took the metro home.
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Bicycling on the Baltimore Washington International (BWI) and Baltimore and Annapolis (B&A) Trails
On November 5, 2006, I led Norma on a 23 mile car shuttle bike trip from my home in Elkridge to the Baltimore Washington International (BWI) Trail. We then biked clockwise around the BWI Airport. At Stewart Avenue and Old Stage Drive, we continued east on Stewart Avenue then followed Fourth Avenue east to the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail (B&A). Next, we biked south on the B&A Trail to the World War II Monument Scenic Overlook, just north of the Naval Academy Bridge on Route 450. This memorial honors the 6454 Marylanders who died in World War II. It started as a beautiful, sunny autumn day with temperatures in the mid-50s but was uncomfortably cold by dusk. Lesson learned: bring extra clothes for layering and expect greater temperature changes between midday and dusk.

Saint Mary's County
For a trip report of two days in Saint Mary's County, including bicycling, see October 29-30, 2006.

Delaware Paddle, Bike, and Hike
For a trip report of the Delaware kayaking, bicycling, and hiking weekend with Norma and me, see August 5-7, 2006.

Forest Glen

Mormon Temple

Statue of the angle Moroni

Bicycling in Washington D.C. area
On July 16, 2006, Norma led me on a 34 mile bike trip in the Washington D.C. area. This trip included parts of the suburbs of the Washington D.C. area and Sligo Creek Trail. We made a stop at Forest Glen Seminary where we saw a variety of buildings under repair that resembled the native architecture of other countries (see first photo for me at the seminary). We also stopped at the Mormom Temple in Kensington, Maryland (see second photo at left). Atop the tallest tower of the temple is a statue of the Mormon angel Moroni which is eighteen feet tall and weighs two tons (from Wikipedia Washington D.C. Temple). See third photo at left. Isn't 10 power optical zoom great?
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Choptank and Tuckahoe paddle, bike, and hike
For a trip report of the kayaking, bicycling, and hiking weekend in in the Choptank and Tuckahoe River areas with Norma and me, see July 1-4, 2006.

Norma at the Awakening, June 11, 2006

Biking in the Washington D.C. Area with Norma
On June 11, 2006, Norma took me on a 16 mile bike ride through northern Virginia and Washington D.C.

We started at the northernmost point of the Mount Vernon Trail at Theodore Roosevelt Island. She then led me on the Martha Curtis Trail heading west into northern Virginia. Next, we headed southeast on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. Continuing east, we caught the Four Mile Run Trail back to the Mount Vernon Trail. Heading north on the Mount Vernon Trail, we passed by Gravelly Point where we stopped to watch the planes take off from Reagan National Airport.

Continuing north on the Mount Vernon Trail, we then crossed the Potomac River via the George Mason Bridge. On the Washington D.C. side, we biked past the George Mason Memorial in East Potomac Park. Next, we headed south and eventually clockwise on Ohio Drive, circumnavigating East Potomac Golf Course. Near Hains Point, Norma introduced me to a huge metal sculpture called The Awakening. In the first photo on the left, Norma is checking the sculture for cavities. Crossing the Tidal Basin, we continued on northwest Ohio Drive then stopped to view the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.

We biked across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to return back to the west side of the Potomac River. Finally, we peddled north on the Mount Vernon Trail to return to where we started, finishing at dusk. The weather was mostly sunny and cool. It was a great day to be outdoors, get some exercise, and see the sights. It was especially nice to have my own personal tour guide since my internal compass fails to function anywhere near Washington D.C.
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