Saturday, June 18, 2016

Falls Church, VA

All week the weather forecasts for Friday indicated severe thunderstorms for most of the day.  With this in mind, we spent some time on Thursday evening going over our options: riding in the weather, spending an extra day in Annapolis, or renting a car.  The storms hit late Thursday evening but at 3 a.m. we woke up to the sound of silence. Outside the weather was nice.  At 5 a.m. we checked the weather forecast and saw that it had changed to just the possibility of storms in the morning.  So we packed our bikes and headed out to what turned out to be a beautiful day.

We followed the East Coast Greenway route from Annapolis to Washington, DC.  The route meandered over back roads and trails. A more direct route likely exists, but this one optimized safe routes.  There was little to photograph until we hit DC and then all the traditional tourist sites were captured in our cameras.  From DC we headed up the W&OD trail back to our start in Falls Church.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Annapolis, MD

We left our Baltimore hotel under the gloom of dark skies and wondered how soon we would get rain.  We made it to Fort McHenry but Chuck, the Park Service employee, would not let us unto the grounds until the 9 a.m. opening.  Rather than waiting the required 1.5 hours we continued on our way as the rain came down.  After about an hour, the rain stopped but we were very wet.  After leaving the city, we got on the BWI trail and then the B&A trail which took us most of the way to Annapolis.  Just prior to town, we were greeted by Jon, the president of the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Bike Advocates. He filled us in on route options and things to see. Once in Annapolis, we left our bikes and gear at our B&B and took a walking tour of the town (see photos). 

Tomorrow’s forecast is for heavy rains and thunder showers.  We have not yet figured out a plan B to cope with this weather ‘event’.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Baltimore, MD

Before leaving town we cycled by several notable houses, the Golden Plough Tavern (1741), the General Horatio Gates House (1751), and the Barnett Bobb House, also known as the Old Log House.

Our ride south started 3 blocks from our hotel.  York Heritage Trail is a National Recreation Trail rail-with-trail in Pennsylvania built in 1999; it connects with the Northern Central Railroad Trail in Maryland.  During the Civil War, the railroad was a target of the Confederate Army before the Battle of Gettysburg. The Confederate Army’s troops tried to isolate the Union's capital by damaging the railroad, telegraph wires and bridges. On November 18 and 19, 1863, President Lincoln traveled on the railroad and stopped at Hanover Junction before giving the Gettysburg Address. 
The York Heritage rail trail took us south to the Pennsylvania & Maryland border.  In York the trail was torn up requiring a short detour before we actually got on the tail.  To the Maryland line the trail has a slight incline and is crushed stone, making us work a litter harder than we hoped.  In the town of Seven Valleys we saw a sign that claimed this area made the first commercial ice cream in the United States and was shipped on the railroad that became the trail.  Unfortunately, none was to be enjoyed.

During our ride on the Pennsylvania section of the trail we endured gentle rain showers which stopped by the time we reached New Freedom, PA. This was the end of the Heritage Trail and the beginning of the North Central Trail.  New Freedom houses an excursion train.  John, one of the volunteers that keep the train functional gave us a tour of the rail cars and allowed us into the engine house to view the steam locomotive.  At the edge of town is the former Summers Canning.  A mural depicting scenes from the Summers Canning Company is displayed on a building next to the trail.

Leaving New Freedom, the rain got heavier and the trail had a nice down grade as we headed south.  The faster we went the wetter and muddier we got.  By the time we reached the end of the trail and paved roads, we were a mess.  We found some large water puddles in the trail head parking lot and washed our legs and then our bikes.  We were like two kids playing in the water.

Cycling on the roads meant cycling in civilization.  We stopped for lunch in a family run Greek restaurant and were treated like part of the family.  During our ride into Baltimore we passed McCormick Hunt Valley plant, Pimlico Race Track, Timonium Fair Grounds, historic Lutherville, Joe’s Bike Shop in Mt. Washington, the zoo, and the Trolley Museum.  Near the zoo, Chris, a local cyclist, stopped to chat and decided to be our tour guide as we headed to our hotel.  Chris, works nights as a surgical nurse and was out riding his vintage bicycle.  He shared local lore and pointed out many sites.  We were cycling the Jones Falls trail and about 3 miles from our hotel we passed a female runner with a nice stride.  We always thought that cycling was faster then running.  However, she passed us numerous times and, after 3 miles, was firmly ahead of us.  I would say that she beat 2 old men, but Chris was only 28.  That woman should be heading for the Olympics. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

York, PA

We had a great hotel in Gettysburg.  It is in a 1900’s renovated school house near center city.  Whether our “late” start was attributable to the hotel’s comfort or us being tired, we can (will) not say.  After breakfast, we headed back through the battlefields where Joe took a few more pictures.  Many of which were homes that served as hospitals during the battle. 

Next we headed to Hanover, PA. While the initial part of the route was on a 2-lane road with some traffic, we had a reasonable shoulder to cycle on.  After Littlestown, we diverted onto very rural roads with one stretch being gravel. This section was so rural that cows were lounging next to the road.  We got into York at about 10 a.m. and headed to the Snyder’s of Hanover factory for a tour.  On the way we stopped for a late morning pick-me-upper in the form of soft ice cream.  The cones were large and refreshing.  Snyder’s gave us a factory tour and we were impressed with the amount of robotics used in the production, packaging, and shipping of their pretzels. 

Before leaving Hanover, we stopped for lunch at The Original Famous Hot Wiener restaurant.  Since it was famous, it had to be good; right? Our waitress likes cyclist and posed with Jeff for a close-up photo.  She recommended and we accepted the house special, a wiener with onions, mustard, chilly. 

After lunch we cycled to York on some 2-lane roads with traffic and not much of a shoulder.  Most drivers were patient when they could not pass.  Downtown York was easy to cycle and a good portion of our route allowed us to take a full lane.  We are staying in the heart of the downtown and within walking distance of many restaurants and close to tomorrow’s rail trail that will take us to Baltimore, MD.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Gettysburg, PA

Unlike yesterday’s 90 degree temperature, we started out in 60 degree weather.  It was wonderful.  Google’s best route out of Frederick indicated that we should cycle through Fort Detrick.  While very skeptical that this could be done, we cycled to the front gate only to face the inevitable and rode several additional miles through neighborhoods and commercial areas to get to the other side of the fort.  

Once out of the city, our route was mostly country roads through farm lands.  At Catoctin Furnace we had our first picture stop.  Catoctin Furnace is a sleepy village at the base of Catoctin Mountain.  The village got its name for the iron furnaces that were built there in 1774 and made tools and household items.  During the American Revolution, it made military shells and after the battle at Gettysburg during the Civil War, it hired Yankee and Southern troops escaping the war.

From there we went thru Thurmont (founded in 1751) and Emmetsburg (founded in 1785).  We saw Mount St. Mary’s University, the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, and the Basilica and National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who was the first native born United States citizen to be canonized as a saint. In addition, we passed the National Emergency Training Center (NETC) campus, which includes the Emergency Management Institute, the National Fire Academy and the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.  Like Fort Detrick, the Training center would not let us look around.

Before getting to Gettysburg, we crossed the Utica and Sacks covered bridges.  The Sacks Bridge is reportedly haunted by Confederate shoulders that were hung from its rafters.  Our passing though the bridge was peaceful.  The Sachs Covered Bridge was built around 1854 and in 1938 was designated Pennsylvania's most historic bridge.

Getting into Gettysburg we passed the Eisenhower farm and toured the battlefields before getting to our hotel.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Frederick, MD

Our history tour started with The Falls Church, the church that gave the town its name.  The church dates back to the early 1700s and was one more thing that George Washington is associated with.   During the civil war it served as a hospital and then a stable and barracks for the troops of both sides.

The early morning temperatures were in the 90s but, we were blessed with a “cooling” head wind.  As we headed west on the Washington & Old Dominion Rail Trail, Joe made many photo stops—wildlife, railroad artifacts, and other points of interest. Since Jeff rides this trail several times a week it all seemed like old stuff to him. The W&OD runs through a 100 foot-wide and 45-mile long park that is owned and operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. The paved trial stretches the entire length of the park from Shirlington to Purcellville as it passes through the communities of Arlington, Falls Church, Dun Loring, Vienna, Reston, Herndon, Sterling, Ashburn, Leesburg, and Hamilton.  The W&OD trail was built on the rail bed of the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad, which operated from 1859 to 1968.

By mid-morning we passed through the lovely town of Leesburg, VA.  This small town has a vibrant downtown with lots of shops and restaurants. Unfortunately, we passed through the town too early to enjoy them.  Most of Leesburg was founded on the property of Nicholas Minor, who petitioned the General Assembly for the construction of a town on his land. Originally named Georgetown after King George I of England, the town’s name was later patriotically changed to Leesburg, in honor of Francis Lightfoot Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence to show its faith and support of our newly founded country.
In Leesburg we stopped at the George C. Marshall’s home.  He helped direct the Allied Victory in World War II and was the architect of the European Recovery Program (the Marshall Plan) that earned Marshall the Nobel Peace Prize. Except for three significant changes to his home the House retains its early 19th-century architectural details. 

Before leaving town we checked out the:
  • ·         Loudoun County courthouse erected in 1895. In front of the courthouse stands a statue of a Confederate soldier.
  • ·        Thomas Birkby House, circa 1770
  • ·        The Lightfoot restaurant, originally constructed in 1888 and served as Peoples National Bank for more than half a century. In 1999, the building was restored to its Romanesque Revival Style grandeur.

We moved from the trail to the road as we cycled to Whites Ferry.  White's Ferry is the last of 100 ferries that used to operate on the Potomac River. This ferry, named after the confederate Civil War General Jubal A. Early, connects Maryland and Virginia across the Potomac River.  

After we arrived in Maryland we headed to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail.  C&O Canal is 184.5 miles long.  Operating for nearly 100 years the canal was a lifeline for communities along the Potomac River as coal, lumber and agricultural products floated down the waterway to market. Today it endures as a trail.

Before entering the trail, we helped another cyclist with a flat tire.  Later, Jeff had his own flat tire.  This trail took us about 9 miles west before we headed north on the road to Frederick.  As we neared that end of our ride, our 2 GPSs gave us different directions to our motel.  We were hot and tired, which may have added to the confusion as to which way to go.  Eventually, we got it figured out and enjoyed our air-conditioned room and shower. 

After getting cleaned up, we headed into Frederick’s downtown.  Many unique restaurants and shops were still open.  We learned that Frederick was an important stop along the Great Wagon Road that became known came down from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Emmitsburg, Maryland and continued south following the Great Appalachian Valley.  It was also a stopping point on the westward migration to Cumberland, Maryland and ultimately crossed the Appalachian. Frederick became Maryland's capital city briefly in 1861, as the legislature moved from Annapolis to vote on the secession question.

The town houses the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, the Roads and Rails Museum, and the wonderful Carroll Creek Park.  This park began as a flood control project in late 1970s but now include brick pedestrian paths, water features, planters with shade trees and plantings, pedestrian bridges, and a 350 seat amphitheater for outdoor performances.  Public art is incorporated into the park, including iron trees, scrolling plants, flowers, and the occasional water creature; a bronze-cast drinking fountain; 24 water mosaics.

After our tour of downtown Frederick and a great meal in the brew pub, we went back to our motel, completed this blog, an crashed.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Why the Grand History Trail in 2016

In the fall of 2015, Rails-to-Trails announced  that a group of bicyclists from York County, Pennsylvania, were going on a six-day ride to raise support for completion of the Grand History Trail, a 300-mile regional trail network that will link the rich historical regions of southern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

When complete, the trail system will take users on a circular tour through 250 years of American history via Washington, D.C.; Baltimore and Annapolis in Maryland; and York, Hanover and Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.

We selected this trip because it takes us from Jeff's home in Virginia to some wonderful historic towns via some great cycling routes.  During our planning phase, we received excellent input from one of the routes originators and look forward to help defining what the Grand History Trail can provide.  Check out their web page here.

Map of Planned trip