Allison, Mark, and Norma biking on the scenic auto tour in Blackwater Wildlife Refuge



Bicycling Adventures 2008

Last updated October 15, 2008



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Biking on the Greenbrier River Trail
For a trip report of my rail trail biking weekend in West Virginia, see October 11-13, 2008.

Biking near the Choptank River
For a trip report of my September 30, 2008 paddling adventure on Tuckahoe Creek, the Choptank River, and some of its tributaries that involved a bicycle shuttle, see Choptank River.

Challenge Weekend
For a trip report of my paddling adventure on Marshyhope Creek, Nanticoke River, and Rewastico Creek, with a bicycle shuttle and camping at Trap Pond State Park, check out Marshyhope Creek and Nanticoke River, September 2008.

For a trip report of my California vacation which includes hiking near Lake Tahoe, kayaking in Lake Tahoe, kayaking in the Point Reyes area, and bicycling in Sacramento, check out California, Summer 2008.

Blackwater Wildlife Refuge
After paddling 8.1 miles on the Blackwater River and Buttons Creek (see June 21, 2008 kayaking), Norma, Mark, Allison, and I began a bicycle ride around Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

We did the 25 mile loop shown on the Blackwater bike map, heading in a counterclockwise direction. Our starting/ending point was Golden Hill Road, where we saw numerous monarch butterflies (see first photo at left). Our average pace was a casual 9 miles per hour.

There were some nice views of the marshy grasslands on Maple Dam Road.

We rode on the auto tour route just off Key Wallace Drive. See Mark and Allison in the second photo at left. Numerous rabbits were seen. We walked on one of the trails but were attacked by numerous insects. Closer to the visitor center, we got a close look at a bald eagle who was obviously used to humans. It wasn't camera shy like most of the eagles I've met. See third photo at left.

My only regret is that we didn't get to the visitor center in time. They closed at 1700.

We finished our ride at about 1800, having biked about 27 miles.

Next stop, dinner! We drove north to Cambridge and ate at the Portside Seafood Restaurant...the same place Norma and I ate the last time we biked in the area. Like before, we sat on the upstairs deck and had a nice view of some unnamed creek that protrudes south of the Choptank River. Since it was only one day after the summer solstice, we had daylight until late. After refueling our stomachs, we bid farewell.

I managed to make it back to Norma's place but just barely. My speedometer stopped working, my odometer ran quickly even when the car did not move, my shifter locked up when the car restarted, and the car crept forward at a crawl when I accelerated from a stop, despite how hard I pushed on the gas. It was mostly a good day but ended badly.
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Great Allegheny Passage
After spending most of the previous day working on the barn roof, I was pleased to have Norma take me out for a long bike ride on the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail on June 15, 2008.

We began in Cumberland, Maryland at 625 feet above sea level. This town is the southern end of the 150 mile Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). It is also the northern end of the 184.5 mile Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Towpath. They are similar in that they are both scenic rail trails. But they are also very different. The GAP (at least what I saw) is smoother, covered with finely crushed gravel rather than the dirt (and potholes) of the towpath. The GAP also has fewer places to obtain water and less campsites.

Norma and I rode northwest from Cumberland. It was a gradual uphill that kept our moving average only about 8 miles per hour. We stopped in Frostburg where we saw the train (see photos one and two at left), ate lunch, and walked around town. We checked out the Trail Inn and Campground at the Frostburg Depot Junction and spoke to the owner. This area is an oasis...a great place to eat lunch, get a snack, camp, or sleep in a real bed. It was obvious that they really cater to the bicyclists.

We saw quite a few serious bicyclists...some on overnight trips. We also saw more casual outdoor folk. It was obvious when we were near a parking lot because we'd see walkers or small children on bicycles.

The weather was about as perfect as it could be. Sunny, warm (but not hot), little wind, and fairly dry.

There were quite a few places where we could see the green, rolling hills off in the distance. See third photo at left.

Continuing onward, we rode through Borden Tunnel and the 3300 foot long Big Savage Tunnel (fourth and fifth photos) with a Mason-Dixon Line (sixth photo) crossing in between.

About a mile after the Big Savage Tunnel, we came to the Eastern Continental Divide (seventh photo), which separates the watersheds that feed into the Atlantic Ocean on the east from the watersheds that feed into the Gulf of Mexico on the west.

target="_blank" Less than a mile after the Eastern Continental Divide, we came to the non-existent town of Deal. As far as I could tell, it was just a parking lot. This was the high point of the trail at 2390 feet above sea level. We climbed 1765 feet on bicycles but it wasn't difficult because it was spread out over 25 miles.

Our moving average on the return trip was about 13 miles per hour.

Once again, we stopped at Frostburg...this time for a cold dessert. There, we ran into a fellow we saw on our July 28-30, 2007 kayak trip in Paw Paw, West Virginia. He remembered us...or at least he remembered me.

The late afternoon sun on the rocky cliffs to our north were quite a sight. See eighth photo at left.

We finished our casual 51 mile bike ride at 1815 with time left to walk around town.

This was my first time on the Great Alleghey Passage. I hope to return to it and to do an overnight rail trail bike ride before the end of the year.
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Horseshoe Crab Watch
For a trip report of a Delaware kayaking, hiking, and bicycling weekend to see the horseshoe crabs come ashore, check out Horseshoe Crab Watch, 2008.

Frederick County tri-bridges ride
On Saturday, May 17, 2008, Norma and I loaded up the bicycles and drove out to northern Frederick County.

I studied directions for a three covered bridges drive that I originally found somewhere under the Frederick County Tourism site. Unfortunately, their site has changed so I no longer know where this web page exists. Change is bad. The drive described a scenic route that began in Frederick and took one to all three covered bridges in the county. Upon closer examination, I found the route not as well suited for biking as I liked. It was a good deal longer than it needed to be and included busier roads when smaller ones were available. Hence, I modified the route and cut out some of the unnecessary riding.

According to another now non-existant Frederick County Tourism sub-website called bridges and byways, all three bridges were built in the mid-1800s. They gave Maryland a bit of the Pennsylvania Dutch feel. A Frederick County Parks and Recreation sign mentioned that the covered bridges in Frederick County are three of only eight remaining in Maryland. There were once at least 52 in the state.

My friend Cindy helped me plan this route. She mentioned that Dublin Road is very hilly and that Utica Regional Park is a new park with a porta-john. This park is about 0.4 miles south of Utica Road on the west side of Old Frederick Road. I urged her to join us but unfortunately, a little thing called "work" prevented this.

Norma and I began our route at Utica Regional Park at 1145. Heading north on Old Frederick Road took us past several grassy areas and through Creagerstown. After 7 miles, we arrived at Loy's Station Covered Bridge. See first photo at left. A clean flowing stream ran under the bridge. On the southwest side was a small park with a porta-john.

Much of Frederick County has an open feel. If you don't like claustrophobic city riding, then Frederick County might be the place for you. There are lots of grassy fields and farming areas.

Continuing north then west, we rode to Roddy Road Covered Bridge at mile 13.5. See second photo at left. Some father and son teams were able to access Owens Creek at this bridge. See third photo at left. There was a small parking area at the northwest corner of Roddy Creek Road and Roddy Road. The ride along Owens Creek on Roddy Creek Road was the most scenic part of the ride. We had big trees that went right up to the road along with the clean, flowing creek.

There were quite a few motorcyclists out on this sunny, breezy day.

Just a little further and we were in the town of Thurmont, heading south. On Main Street, we stopped at Cool Beans at 4 East Main Street for a bite to eat and a game of Checkers. This was our second time there, the first being with Cindy after our February 9, 2008 scouting hike at Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park.

We missed our turn in Thurmont from Church Street to Frederick Road though we didn't realize it until a good deal later. There was a grassy area near the Thurmont Trolley Trail where we took a 30 minute siesta. It started to sprinkle just a bit as the sun played peek-a-boo.

Norma and I continued riding south, now on Catoctin Furnace Road. We passed Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo and grabbed a brochure. Fifteen dollars per person was a bit much for entry. Maybe some other time.

I think the wind was coming from the southwest. The forecast said it would be up to 18 mph. That, along with the hills made for a slow ride at times.

Buying locally grown produce often means fresher, healthier food that hasn't been shipped from far away. With my new Trek 7200 with the huge side saddles, I was hauling extra clothes, shoes, camera, food, water, and map. I had room for quite a bit more, including a bag of Norma bought some. Maybe it was to slow me down. But riding with my new pedals having the shoe clips made for a more efficient ride for me and I was feeling pretty energetic.

Further south, we came to Fish Hatchery Road. Just west of route 15 on the south side of this road was a house having a large number of goats, chickens, turkey, ducks, and a few peacocks. Unlike the modern domestic white turkey, these turkey looked like the stereotypical Thanksgiving turkey in old drawings.

We passed the Lewistown State Fish Hatchery then turned around at Stephen O. Eaton Fish Hatchery. They werenít like the Nimbus Dam Fish Hatchery in Sacramento that I used as my turn-around point when I rode as a teenager. Instead of big concrete structures, these were square ponds that clearly were not open to the public.

Riding east, we now had the wind to our backs. The Utica Mills Covered Bridge was our last covered bridge. See fourth photo at left. No parking area at this one.

Just another half mile more and we were done. We rode a little over 33 miles but if we hadnít missed our turn in Thurmont, it would have been closer to 30 miles.

Norma and I loaded up the bikes then drove to the Carroll Creek area of Frederick. This is the new, nice, artsy section of town. We walked along the creek and checked out some of the artwork on the east side. It was really good three dimensional art on a two dimensional surface. Quite a bit of thought was put into it. Then we ate dinner at Hinode Japanese Restaurant. Cindy caught up and joined us.

Our day was done by about 2200. It was a long day, full of fun activities...but that's what Saturdays are for, right?
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Exploring Wicomico County
For a trip report of a weekend kayaking and bicycling trip, see Wicomico County, Maryland, May 2008.

Five Boro Bike Tour
Once a year, New York City (NYC) closes off its roads to permit bicyclists to ride 42 miles through its five boros: Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. 2008 was the year I would participate in this famous ride.

On May 3, 2008, Norma and I picked up $35 round trip Chinatown bus tickets from Washington D.C. to NYC. Our highly skilled driver was able to talk on his cell phone, count money for the toll, and drive all at the same time. We arrived in NYC that evening and checked into an international hostel. Judging by the numerous accents and languages spoken, it really was international. At $43 per person, it was a good deal cheaper than a NYC hotel. The 10 person room bunk beds and communal bathrooms reminded me of my military days.

After getting settled, we ventured out to find New York style pizza. It was a good time to fatten up before the big bike ride. We ate at Mama's Pizza where the food was fast, inexpensive, and filling.

On Sunday, May 4, we were up at 0445 along with many others. We stowed our gear in a basement locker at the hostel then took the subway to the start of the ride, Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. It is here that we picked up our reserved rental bikes from Bike and Roll. Renting a bike when we already owned one may seem strange but it definitely made traveling easier. We were provided with almost new Trek 7100 hybrids. For $70 each, they provided them at the start and picked them up at the finish.

We met up with Chris R. near the start. See the three of us in the first photo at left. We were hoping to also join Stacy but she was running behind then finished long before us (she didn't stop for lunch) so unfortunately we never caught her.

The ride was scheduled to start at 0800. It began promptly at 0845. The morning was cool and very overcast.

We pedaled north in Manhattan. With 30,000 people signed up for the ride, things were naturally crowded though we expected riders to space out once we got moving. Unfortunately, this didn't happen. Though most of the roads were closed off, some were not. This meant riders bunched up waiting to cross streets. See second photo at left. Several tour marshals tried to keep order of things. There were a few crashes and the marshals often told us to slow down to prevent further crashes. In my opinion, this just made things worse since it just made us bunch up even more rather than spread out. Density was the problem, not speed.

The ride through Central Park was especially nice. It is good to know such a big city can make space for so much greenery.

We crossed several bridges that bicyclists would not normally have been able to ride which made it all the more special. See third photo at left.

Norma and Chris think the route might have been modified so that we did 4 miles less than originally planned since we don't remember riding through Astoria Park.

There were numerous rest stops. Water and snacks were provided. Porta-johns were abundant and fairly clean. We broke for lunch at one of the stops that sold freshly grilled meat. Unfortunately, it wasn't long until they stopped selling meat, despite appearing to have plenty. All we could figure was that they were on a strict time schedule to open up the roads. An accident a little earlier meant all bike traffic prior came to a standstill as an ambulance had to be rushed in. See fourth photo at left. This put riders behind schedule. At least it gave me time to take a nice photo of the Empire State Building (see fifth photo).

Later in the morning, most of the haze lifted and the temperature warmed up, making for an even more enjoyable ride.

It was interesting seeing all the different bicycles and people. There were quite a few families though I suppose the median rider was around my age. A couple of people towed a child carrier but instead of children, they had pugs. There were some fast carbon fiber frame racing bikes and some slower mountain bikes. But this wasn't a race and riders were expected to keep their pace between 6 and 15 mph.

Not all the cyclists were bicyclists. We saw three unicyclists. They rode very big, heavy duty unicycles. Having tried one a few years ago and failing miserably, I was most impressed by their control. They kept a good pace too.

In lower Brooklyn, bike traffic came to a standstill. Thousands of us waited on a three lane highway out in the sun, which was now getting a little hot. Every minute or so, we inched forward. This was especially annoying because it made things difficult to do anything like eat snacks, change clothes, etc. As we neared the front, we learned that the three lane highway merged down to one. Veteran riders said this didn't happen before and some questioned if they would return next year. We had nice sunburns to show for our wait (and failure to wear sunscreen).

We crossed the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and rode into "festival," where food and gear was sold. I managed to snag a free Commerce Bank bag.

After a short nap, we rode a little further to the north end of Staten Island. There, Norma and I turned in our rental bikes and bid Chris farewell. We completed what we believe was a 38 mile ride.

We took the Staten Island ferry across the New York Harbor back to the start. Along the way, we saw the Statue of Liberty (see sixth photo) and the NYC skyline (see seventh photo). Both were very impressive.

Back in Manhattan, we rushed back to the hostel, picked up our gear from the locker, then took the train back to Washington D.C. We slept most of the way.

It was a very busy weekend. Norma went above and beyond the call of duty to plan and coordinate our activities. Pulling this off for the two of us was no small feat. But getting 30,000 riders to ride through 5 boros of NYC was downright miraculous.
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Fort Washington Foray
On April 12, 2008, Norma led a 27 mile bike ride in lower Prince George's County for the Maryland Outdoor Club (MOC). I was the co-leader for this event but I really didn't need to do much. She had things under control the whole time. Prior to the event, I helped with scouting on January 13, 2008 and putting together the map. On the day of the event, I helped with accountability, taking photos, and serving as sweep. But that is all.

We met at Henson Creek Neighborhood Park. It rained a bit at the start but the temperature was comfortable. At 1030, we began biking south on Henson Creek Trail.

Our first stop was Fort Foote Park. We stopped to explore the area and look at the big guns. See first and second photos at left.

Next, we stopped at St. John's Episcopal Church which dates from 1766. See third photo at left. There was a big bell outside the church which Chris just had to ring. That thing is REALLY loud.

The sun would occassionally come out but for the most part, the day was cloudy. At times, one half of the sky was lit with dark clouds on the other half which made for an interesting visual effect.

Venturing onward, we came to Fort Washington, where we ate lunch. See fourth photo at left. There were several people at the fort dressed up in clothes from the mid-1800s. They were re-enactors but not there to re-enact a battle (fifth photo). Apparently, they can't do that because it is park property. A fellow with an old style camera told us about how cameras during the 1800s worked (sixth photo). Then another fellow told us about the clothing from the time. They marched around and held a formation. Then three of them spoke about the blackpowder weapons they were carrying. Each represented a different advancement in firearms technology. It is amazing what a difference it made when rifling replaced smooth bore guns. I learned that the bayonet was originally made to keep away horses. Lastly, three different firearms were shot (seventh photo). I've never been to an event such as this but found it most interesting. I think the re-enactors were happy to have us there too being as there was no other audience.

We took a group photo near one of the guns before departing. In the eighth photo at left, from left to right standing are Douglas, Stacy, Michele, Lutz, Chris R., Norma, and Mike. In the front row from left to right are Liz, Angela, and me.

There were a few minor falls on the way back but the only thing hurt was probably just a little pride.

Though it didn't rain much where we were, it apparently rained quite a bit upstream since Henson Creek was now significantly higher and faster. Under one bridge, we had to ride through quite a bit of water.

We were done by 1630. A few folks left and the rest of us went to the nearest McDonald's for a bite to eat.

It was a good day.
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Hanover to Patapsco Valley State Park
March 25, 2008 started as just another work day except for the fact that I got in pretty early. Spring had recently begun and I was getting the itch to leave early to get outdoors. It was still a little cold for kayaking with temperatures in the mid-50s but biking was definitely do-able. With the sky almost cloud free, I rushed home, filled my backpack with extra warm clothes, a map, food, camera, and a few other items. I decided to find the best route from my house to Patapsco Valley State Park.

I decided to check out two routes and make this a semi-circuit ride. I headed out the less traveled north side of my neighborhood and rode heading north on Ridge Road to the park.

The trees were not yet covered with leaves but much of the ground was green with some plant that looked like clovers. Deep Run and various other creeks crossed under or ran parallel to my route, which had taken a turn to the west. Deep Run marked my crossing from Anne Arundel County into Howard County.

I passed the historic and pricey Elkridge Furnace Inn, a restaurant I have not yet tried. Information signs along the side of the road pointed out the historical significance of various sites.

I rode through part of Historic Elkridge.

Continuing west, I entered the park. I rode along the south side of the Patapsco River, heading west.

At the Avalon Area, I crossed the river at the Gun Road bridge, entering Baltimore County. I then headed east on the north side of the river, passing a small waterfall followed by the historic Thomas Viaduct. See photo at left.

Back in Elkridge, I retraced my route a bit to get to Lawyers Hill Road which took me south. If this is the road that the lawyers bike, then they must be in fantastic shape because the incline was kicking my sorry ass. The homes on this road certainly looked like they belonged to well-off lawyers. They were well maintained, older homes on large lots surrounded by trees.

The busy Montgomery Road and Hanover Road took me east, back into my beloved Anne Arundel County.

Tall, slim, athletic men wearing racing outfits and riding serious road bikes zipped past me. I was dressed in camouflage trousers and an old sweatshirt riding my now 16 year old mountain bike. I later donned my blaze orange hunting vest on one of the narrow, busy roads. Better to be safe than fashionable.

I got home one hour and 50 minutes after I started. It was fairly windy though I didn't notice it until I grilled steaks on the deck a little later. I guess I was having too much fun to notice the wind.

The total distance was about 16.5 miles. Not very far but enough to work up a good appetite.

I revised my route and recorded it in Hanover to Patapsco Valley State Park.
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Riding in Kent County
For a trip report of a weekend trip to Maryland's smallest county that includes some nice bicycling, see Kent County, Maryland, March 2008.

BWI Trail
On February 3, 2008 Norma and I decided to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday with a bike ride and a swim. Neither of us are football fans.

We started at 0820 from my house with temperatures in the mid-30s. By afternoon, it was expected to be sunny with highs in the mid-50s.

I led us on the route I mapped out from Hanover to BWI Trail. On the BWI Trail, we rode the loop heading clockwise. It was good to be riding so early on Sunday. At times, it felt like were the the only ones around.

Near Andover Park in Linthicum (Anne Arundel County Map 2 D9), we saw an emu in a fenced-in area. See first and second photos at left. As with other confined wild animals I've seen, he spent his time just pacing back and forth, looking at what went on in the world outside his cage.

After completing about two thirds of the loop, we rode the BWI Trail to North Arundel Aquatic Center. There, Norma met with Stacy for swim lessons. I swam laps, only to find that my fastest could not even come close to Stacy's average.

By now, we worked up quite an appetite. We rode the BWI Trail to B&A Trail Connector Route then headed south on the Baltimore Annapolis Trail (B&A), to Marley Station Mall. There we stopped at Sbarro for Italian food.

On the return trip, we took a short cut on Aquahart Road, heading west.

We saw 3 stray cats, each resembling a cat we both know personally. Closer to home, we saw 4 deer and a turkey vulture just north of Dorsey Road. See third photo at left.

By 1630, we were done, having biked 30.5 miles.

This ended one of the more active weekends I've had in awhile. In addition to bicycling that weekend, I ran 2 miles, hiked 7.5 miles, and swam 1.3 miles. Best of all, I enjoyed every minute of it, sharing most of the time with people whose company I enjoy.
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Henson Creek
On January 13, 2008, Norma took me on a bicycle ride on the Henson Creek Trail. The route she chose was titled "Fort Washington Fling" from the book 25 Bicycle Tours in Maryland by Anne H. Oman.

We began this ride around 1300. The temperatures were in the mid 40s and much of the day was overcast.

Norma and I rode south on the trail, which followed Henson Creek. See first photo at left. Trees lined both sides of the paved trail. On the east side, there were several parts that were quite marshy. I imagine in the summertime, there would be quite a few frogs present.

We came to one bridge where I found an animal skull on the railing. See second photo at left. I'm guessing it was from a dog.

Continuing south, we rode through Tucker Road Park and past the ice rink.

Soon, the trail ended. We found ourselves riding through some suburbs that sometimes had little or no shoulder for bicycles. Fortunately, we encountered no reckless drivers.

We caught some nice views of the Potomac River on our way to Fort Foote Park. The fort at this park was quite unlike others I've seen. It lacked the impressive stone walls of other forts (instead it used earthworks) but it made up for this with its impressive big guns. I had no idea cannons of this size were used so long ago. See third photo at left for me on one of the guns. This one shot 500 pound projectiles at a range of 3 miles!

Our next stop was St. John's Episcopal Church which dates from 1766. Supposedly, George Washington attended service there on numerous occassions. See fourth photo at left for Norma on holy ground.

We rode on Riverview Road and passed what my ADC map calls Broadwater Estates on the north side. Unfortunately, all we saw was a large property behind gates. Since the area is near Broad Creek, there were quite a few things that used the word "Broad" including Broad Creek Drive, Broad Creek Church Road, and Broadview Road.

The final stop was Fort Washington. Though the guns were not as impressive as those at Fort Foote, the classic stone walls of this hardened fortress were quite awesome. See fifth, sixth, and seventh photos at left. In the last photo, I am standing next to a sign, looking at the Potomac River. Back on Cinco de Mayo 2007, I paddled 20 miles in this same area and got a chance to see the fort from the enemy's point of view. Either direction, it is quite amazing.

It was starting to get dark and the forecast was calling for rain so we didn't stay long. Perhaps we'll return on a warmer day.

We managed to make it back to the actual trail before it got too dark. This was a relief as it kept us away from traffic.

As predicted, it began to rain. Fortunately, we were almost done.

Though we usually don't see many animals so close to residential areas, we managed to see five deer right around dusk. We also saw the fastest squirrel we've ever seen.

By about 1720 we were done, having rode just under 27.5 miles.

The weather doesn't need to be perfect and the days don't need to be long to have fun outside. All you need is a willingness to get outdoors, the ability to dress appropriately, a good route, and a sense of adventure. That day, we had it all.
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