Being stuck at home is no fun but it got me to thinking about my favorite rides ever. These could be event rides or parts of tours or whatever. Here are a few that come to mind.
- Maui Downhill – On our honeymoon, my wife and I rode from the rim of Haleakala at 10,000 feet to the ocean at the town of Paia. A little over 30 miles. I pedaled only a few times to get started after a mid-ride break for breakfast. My hands and forearms were sore from braking as we followed countless switchbacks through the wasteland near the top of the mountain to the paradise of the lower slope of the north face of the volcano.
- The Erie Canal – I rode from Niagara Falls to Albany back in 2004. I can still see in my mind’s eye the early mornings on the Erie Canal from Freeport to roughly Syracuse. Fog. Ducks and geese. Packet boats gliding in the waterway. Pleasant temperatures with blessedly low humidity. And not a hill in sight. (Okay, there were two but they were not very big.)
- The GAP Trail – The Great Allegheny Passage connects Pittsburgh with the C & O Canal towpath at Cumberland Maryland. I’ve done the entire trail twice, and major portions of it several times. Trestles, tunnels, waterfalls, massive wind turbines, scenic vistas of mountains and farmland, dense forest. If you live anywhere near Pittsburgh or DC you really need to check this out.
- Washington Pass – The Northern Cascades in Washington State are pretty darn spectacular. Heading west from near Winthrop, Highway 20 took me up a long, arduous climb that included an amazing switchback from which I could see waaay down there where I had been. (I climbed THAT?!!!) Once over the top it’s downhill for dozens of miles with absolutely amazing views. The turquoise water of the streams and the lakes and rivers behind Diablo Dam just bowled me over.
- The Florida Keys – During my 2017 tour to Key West I rode from Key Largo to Key West in one go, 100 miles. The road is level except for a few bridges. My ride was right after hurricane Irma wiped out parts of the lower keys. Instead of dolphins and sea turtles I saw immense heaps of storm debris for miles and miles. And about a million iguanas. The Seven Mile bridge is quite a cool thing to ride over. You end up at the Lowest Point in America buoy for the perfect ride ending photo op. Half the paint on the buoy had been scoured off by Irma making my arrival even more memorable.
- 136 Miles in a Day – From Morehead, Minnesota to Gackle, North Dakota is surely not on anyone else’s favorite ride list but for me it was an amazing adventure. When you are in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do and nobody to do it with, you might as well keep riding. And so I did, bypassing my planned destination at a campground on the Little Yellowstone River. I took my time at the start of the ride by touring Fargo and chatting with east-bound bicycle tourists. This meant that I spent the last two and a half hours in complete darkness but for the white circle of my head light. It was magical.
- 50 States in a Day – Anybody who knows me knows that the Washington Area Bicyclists Association’s 50 States Ride is my jam. I’ve done it 13 times and it never gets old. 60 miles of hills and stop signs and traffic lights winding all through the District of Columbia so that riders cycle on the avenues named after each of the 50 states. You are guaranteed to meet people all day and every last one of them should have their heads examined for doing this loony ride. The cue sheet is about 10 pages long. If you use a GPS you’re cheating. Getting lost is part of the adventure.
- Westcliffe to Salida – I rode across Colorado on my 2019 tour. The first massive climb from Wetmore to Westcliffe went from 6,000 feet to 9,000 feet in 13 miles. It totally wrecked me mentally and physically. The next day I rode north along the eastern base of the Santa Fe Mountains and then west on the Arkansas River to Salida. Scenery out the wazoo. An amazing mile-long descent in the middle of the ride was a welcome relief from the previous day’s brutal climb.
- Monarch Pass – After a rest day in Salida, I took on Monarch Pass. This was my first and only time over 11,000 feet. The Pass is on the Continental Divide nearly twice as high as Rogers Pass in Montana where I crossed the divide in 2018. The ride down was insane, made better by seeing hundreds of riders slogging their way up the mountain as part of the Ride the Rockies event.
- Caples Lake to Sacramento – Words fail when I try to describe the sheer glee of realizing that after riding hundreds of miles up and down across Colorado, Utah, and Nevada and climbing over Carson Pass in California that my climbing days were nearly over on my 2019 tour. Not to be cheated, I began the day by climbing a few hundred feet over each of three more passes but after that it was downhill for about 80 miles. An overdose of evergreens gave way to windy roads through wine country.
- A Day in the City – Long ago I was an intern at a government agency in San Francisco. One Saturday I took my bike on BART into the city to explore. I rode all over the place, including a brutal climb up Russian Hill. I descended through the Presidio back when it was still a military base then over the Golden Gate Bridge and down to Sausalito. I took a ferry across the bay between the Gate and Alcatraz Island. Perfect.
- Night Baseball – Nationals Park is a 15-mile ride from my house. There is a bike valet at the ballpark so no need to worry about bike security. Games typically end between 10 and 11 pm. The ride home in the dark involves about two miles of urban riding then eleven miles on the Mount Vernon Trail which has no lighting. On a cool night with a slight breeze, this ride is bliss.
- McKenzie Pass – Before I rode the second two thirds of the TransAmerican Bicycle Route last year, a friend said that she thought the ride over McKenzie Pass in Oregon was the highlight of her entire cross-country tour. To be honest I doubted her. After all, what could be better than 11,500+ foot Hoosier Pass in Colorado, the ride up and over Lolo Pass and along the Lochsa River in Idaho, or the spectacular Oregon coast? Well, she was right. Even with a ten mile traffic-y start that featured my only flat of the trip, the ride over McKenzie was epic. The approach from the valley in the east features spectacular views of the Sisters mountains to the south and several other snowy peaks in the Oregon Cascades to the north. Trucks and other long vehicles are not allowed on the road over the pass, so the ride is low stress. There were several amazing landscapes on this route. First is a gradual climb through a pine forest. Next, you ride through a stark forest burn zone, and finally the intense black rocky terrain of a former lava field leading to the pass itself. After an hour of gawking at the rocks and the mountain peaks, the real fun begins. On the west side you get a 3,000 foot curvy joy ride downhill through the lava zone, another burn zone, and finally a Pacific northwest rain forest with dense vegetation under countless fir trees. The air is clean and refreshing, made more so by the fact that you’ve been riding at elevation for three weeks. Every 1,000 feet you pass a sign..5,000 feet, 4,000 feet,…Wow. Just wow.
2 thoughts on “My Favorite Rides – Update”
Sounds like you’ve done a bunch of amazing rides.
For me, the one that comes to mind right now is the 30km downhill I did in Vietnam from Dalat. It didn’t require any pedaling, but it was spectacular.
I’ve down the Maui downhill, Erie Canal and Washington pass. All on my top ten list as well.