No Way So Hey – Day 21

Although I am on a solo bike tour, I am constantly reminded that I am not alone. I am constantly helped by trail angels, people who help bike tourists, often for no compensation. I heard of June Curry of Alton Virginia who gave cold water and cookies to bike tourists slogging up Afton Mountain in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. She did this for decades until the calendar took her from the mountain. 

I was helped last night and this morning by Jackie and Ed, aunt and uncle of my college friend Wendy. I arrived at their home in a monsoon soaked to the bone. The fed me, watered (and beered and wined me) and cleaned my clothes. All the time the storm raged outside. I’ve been to Thailand in monsoon season. Florida has Siam beat by billions of gallons.

Ed and Jackie, Awesome Trail Angels

I left their home stuffed with a delicious breakfast and carrying food for the road. Miraculously it was not raining. I took bike trails back to the Florida Atlantic Coast and met a constant gale from the ocean. 

The Lehigh Trail near Flagler Beach

For ten miles I was sandblasted until I traded sand in my eye and the view of raging surf for a sheltered parallel route.  Along the seat I spotted an Indian burial mound. (I’m no anthropologist; there was a roadside sign.)


I have been fighting a cold for three days. It left my throats and moved to my belly. I stopped for early lunch exhausted after only 30 miles. I ate and drank a vanilla shake to no effect. Riding away I came to realize that both my front and back brake pads were dragging on my wheel rims. 

I freed them with my hands. When I reapplied the brakes they wouldn’t work. I stopped using my best Fred Flinstone food dragging. 

I rode through Daytona Beach, a place filled will sunburnt scraggy street people. So depressing. 

Down the road in New Smyrna Beach I found a bike shop, Fox Firestone Bicycles (www.foxbikes.com). The mechanic was at lunch so Debbie sent me to her co-owner and husband, Andy at the ATV and Moyorcycle shop next door. Andy pronounced my front cable dead. I went back to the shop and left my bike to get a cold sports drink at the gas station across the street. 

Debbie and I spent some time talking to George, a septuagenarian bicyclist who was hit by a car going 50 miles per hour 17 years ago. He looked younger than me. Wow. 

While we chatted I fixed the rear brake. The same problem happened during my 2005 bike tour from D.C. to Indiana. I didn’t have the tools or competence to fix the front cable.

Harrison, the mechanic arrived and replaced the cable in five minutes. The old one was rusted along 80 percent of its length. He also tweaked my repair to the rear cable. When I left my brakes worked better than when God tour started. Fox Firestone dropped everything to help out a stranger on a bike tour. Trail angels. 

Harrison fixing The Mule

While all this was going on Debbie researched places to stay. 30 miles south she found The Wayward Travellers Inn (www.thewaywardtravellersinn.com).

Fox Firestone Bicycles people are trail angels.

I headed south passing up an opportunity to see manatees near Cape Canaveral because the 8 1/2 mile access road banned bikes and a bridge was shown as out on The Google. 

 So I rode to Mims Fla and called the Inn. It’s a beautifully renovated old home. It only has two guest rooms but they are well appointed with antiques and large inviting beds. The owners, Roan and Karrie, are totally cool folks from Utah who chatted my ear off upon arrival. 

Roan gave me a ride in their electric Prius to and from a nearby restaurant where I stuffed myself with food and beer. 

After the Inn-provided breakfast, I will hit the road in search of gators and, perhaps, manatees. 

Another 79 mile day despite the travails and delays. The tour is now 1,528 miles long.

Some Ride/Hike Ideas for 2016

About a year ago I was admonished by a friend for sounding wishy washy regarding my 2015 vacation plans. “Stop planning. All we have is today” was her way of saying don’t plan, DO!  Irony alert: in January 2014 she told me of her plans to obtain certification to teach in DC schools and to open a business. She followed through on none of it, eventually leaving town. Even so, she had a point.

I suck at advance planning. Somehow I managed to do a bike tour, a non-bike trip around the world, nearly a dozen day hikes, half a dozen bicycling events, and take in a bunch of Nationals games. So with that in mind I began thinking about things to do in 2016.

I anticipate one non-biking vacation (to Sweden and thereabouts) to visit my daughter.  (A return to Thailand in the dry season would be nice but I can’t face the 18 hours of flying right now. Maybe 2017.) That will leave plenty of vacation time. So here are some ideas I am tossing around in my head.

Hiking: there are still many, many hikes to do in the Shenandoah National Park. Also, I have barely scratched the surface of hiking in nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Trail. One possibility is to gear up and do some overnights. I have never done this and it would be an interesting extension of my day hikes (not to mention save on driving home after a day’s worth of hiking).

Biking Events: WABA swears that it’s going to offer a century ride this year.  If it works into my schedule, I’ll definitely do it. Then there are the usual events: Vasa, Cider, 50 States, Backroads, and Great Pumpkin. I’ve done all of these several times, but the Backroads course was moved to West Virginia this year. I was in Australia and missed it. I can’t wait to do the new version. Two more that I keep threatening to do are RAGBRAI and the Five Boro Ride in New York City. Both of them are cattle drives. Both offer logistical challenges. Some of what follows are a lot easier to do.

Bike Trails: There are all kinds of cool trails around here that I haven’t ridden. Here’s a list of Virginia trails:

  • The Virginia Capital Trail goes between Williamsburg and Richmond. This could be a fun 2-day deal or a long single day ride.
  • High Bridge State Park down near Farmville and Appomattox looks really cool with a long, high bridge.
  • The Virginia Creeper Trail is a bit of a drive from DC. It’s only 34 miles but could be a beast of an out and back ride.
  • The New River Trail is a 57-mile trail that looks really promising with 30 trestles and bridges and two tunnels. This is a two-day ride with camping I think.

In Pennsylvania the Pine Creek Rail Trail runs 63 miles through the Grand Canyon of the East. Looks like a good overnight camping round trip to me.

Bike Tours: Right now I have eight possibilities on my list. All in the Eastern U.S.

  • Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway: This is a monster tour, 578 miles from Front Royal, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. How the hell I’d get back is anybody’s guess. It’s also super hilly so I figure I’d be lucky to average 45 miles per day, 13  days of riding. This could be beyond my physical abilities. (Never stopped me before.)
  • The Natchez Trace: This 444 mile road is truck free. Tack on another 90 miles or so and the route would go from Nashville to New Orleans. Logistics on this one is a bit pricey (two bike flights). Bike Friday to the rescue?
  • Figure 8 in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York: Adventure Cycling has two routes that form a figure 8. One loops around Lake Champlain, the other does a lap of the Adirondack Park. This one would be logistically pretty easy as I have family in the Albany area where the Adirondack route begins. The total distance exceeds 700 miles. The riding in Vermont and upstate New York is incredibly nice. Also weather up yonder is pretty much perfect for cycling in June – August.
  • La Route Verte: There are over 5,000 kilometers of marked bike routes in Quebec. The possibilities are endless. Then there is the interesting prospect of conversing in my horrid, mostly forgotten high school French. The idea of cycling to Quebec City, which I have never seen, or around Montreal is pretty intriguing. Getting there is a bit of a haul, but c’est la vie.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – North: Amtrak now has roll on bike service on the East Coast. Theoretically (relying on Amtrak is always an iffy proposition) I could take my bike on a trail and ride to Brunswick Maine, then ride up to Acadia National Park and ride all or part way home.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – South: Alternatively, I could take the train to Florida, ride to Key West, ferry to Tampa and ride across the state to Amtrak in Miami. Or just ride home.
  • Around Lake Michigan: This one starts in Monroeville, Indiana, one of the most bike touring friendly small towns in the US. It heads north through lower Michigan into the Upper Peninsula. Then across to Wisconsin and returns by crossing Lake Michigan on a ferry.  It’s 1,100 miles. Logistics would be simplified by using my in-laws house in north central IN as an alternative starting point.

In the increasingly likely (yet still somewhat improbable) possibility that I retire there is this:

  • The Trans Am/Western Express/Northern Tier Cross Country Ride: There remains a faint possibility that I might retire this year. If so, adios, amigos! I don’t know which route I’d take but the possibilities are numerous. The Trans Am is the classic route from Yorktown to the Oregon coast through Yellowstone. The Western Express shortens the Trans Am by taking a b-line across Utah and Nevada for California. The Northern Tier goes close to the US-Canada border.

Once I find out when the WABA Century and the Sweden trip will happen, I’ll pick two of the tours and as many events and hikes as my aging bones can handle.

 

 

 

Now We’re Getting Somewhere – Taking a Mulligan

I needed a grease injector to service my pedals. It’s a bit of a mess trying to do it with a baby medicine injector. Not enough oomph in the lilttle plastic plunger.

My local bike store doesn’t sell them but Performance does. I could have ordered it online but that would have taken away a prefectly good excuse to ride over to their Springfield store. A couple of weeks ago, friend of the blog, bike commuter, and Friday Coffee Club devotee Reba told me that Mulligan Road was now open.

Mulligan Road is the new road that connects US 1 with Telegraph Road near Fort Belvoir. Woodlawn Road used to serve this purpose but the military closed it for security reasons after the 9/11 attacks. Traffic has been a mess ever since. In true Washington area style it only took 13 years to fix the problem.

The road seems to have been recently renamed, Jeff Todd Way. Jeff Todd was a local businessman who was very active in the community. He died in a car crash in 2011.

Whatever the name, it was time to check out the road on two wheels. Big Nellie got the call.  I stepped out of the house and was smacked by searing heat. Labor Day may be the first day of meteorological autumn but somebody forgot to tell the weather gods.

To get to the new road, you ride the Mount Vernon Trail to the end at Mount Vernon. Then you keep going down the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway all the way to US 1. At US 1 you’ll see a mess of road construction which will soon be cleared up. Cross US 1 and you are are on the old Mulligan Road. It has been moved a bit to the south and widened. (The old entrance to Woodlawn Plantation has been removed. Access is now available from US to the south. Good luck with that if you are on a bike.)

In a half mile you come to Pole Road. This used to be the end of the line for Mulligan Road, but not anymore. A new road winds up (and I do mean up) through Fort Belvoir. It’s a four lane highway with a 40 mile per hour speed limit. The road isn’t quite done yet. For one thing it needs another layer of asphalt to make the road bed even with the concrete edge of the road. The right lane seems extra wide which I hope means there will be a bike lane.

Up, up, up. Put me in the zoo.

After cresting the hill, you get a nice reward descending through broad curves until you start to ride up again to Telegraph Road. Telegraph is a bit of a mess heading south. The hill you just came down now goes back up, and then some. There’s no bike lane (yet) so it’s just you and the constant flow of impatient drivers yearning to get to I-95 and go absolutely nowhere.

Just before the crest of the hill there is a sign saying “End of Bike Lane” which suggests that maybe there is supposed to be one. Not 30 yards later a new bike lane begins. Signage is not VDOT’s strong suit. This bike lane continues all the way to US 1 south of Fort Belvoir. I turned right at Beulah Road expecting to do battle with heavy car traffic but to my surprise I was given a bike lane of my very own. Yay! It continued all the way through Kingstowne to the Franconia Springfield Parkway. (It wasn’t actually my own. It was used by a man driving a car while messing with his smartphone. He kept weaving all over the road. I caught up to him at a red light and yelled at him to put the damned thing away before he killed somebody.)

I could have taken a side path all the way to Performance but the wide paved shoulder on the Parkway was too nice to pass up.

Mission accomplished thanks to the folks behind the Fairfax County Comprehensive Bicycle Plan.

The ride back was more better because the other side of Telegraph was in much better shape including an on-road bike lane. I turned right onto Mulligan/Todd and saw a wide side trail. I do hope this is not going to replace on on-road bike lane because the right lane is extra wide and can easily accomodate a bike lane.

Ever notice how the ride back seems so much faster once you know where the roads go? I flew down the long hill on Mulligan and zoomed right across Pole Road without so much as recognizing it.

Mulligan/Jeff Todd will be finished soon. I have sent a note to Adventure Cycling so that they may consider adding it to their Atlantic Coast route.

I took a whole bunch of pix so you can see for yourself over on my Flickr page.