Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lake Ontario Loop

Photos by Joseph Insalaco

What draws us to water? We have cycled along the Mississippi River, followed Lewis & Clark’s route on the Missouri and the Columbia Rivers, cycled the Acadian Shores of Maine and Nova Scotia, and traveled along the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay.  Little boys cannot resist a water puddle, nor can we. Our latest adventure took us around the Canadian side of Lake Ontario, along the St. Lawrence River, and then back around the U.S. side of the Lake.

Our cycling journey started mid-afternoon in Buffalo, New York. Before starting, we met one of our biggest fans; Joe’s 103 year old mother-in-law.  With her blessing, we mounted our bikes and headed to the Peace Bridge, linking the United States to Canada.  In Canada we planned to follow the “Waterfront Trail” that goes along the Canadian side of the lake and up the St. Lawrence River.  It is a compilation of well-marked trails, side streets, and highways and is documented in a paperback book entitled Waterfront Trail and Greenway Mapbook and on the internet at http://www.waterfronttrail.org.

After crossing into Canada, we headed north along the Niagara River.  Since it was getting late, we needed to find a place for dinner.  We decided to stop at the first interesting place we found, and hoped for the best.  It was after 5 p.m. and we passed several places that were not appealing.  Then, we saw a bar/restaurant with an interesting name.  It was called “He Is Not Here”.  It had an outdoor patio and a place for our bikes.  The weather was nice and the patio overlooked the Niagara River; it was very interesting.  We asked one of the customers if the restaurant had patio service, or did we need to go inside to order.  She told us to sit down and get comfortable, and she would take care of us.  When she returned, she asked us lots of questions and made several suggestive innuendos.  Then she introduced us to her female friends, one of which was the “mellowed out” owner of the bicycle next to ours.  The food was good, the beer great, and the conversation definitely interesting.

The next morning, we continued along the river heading towards Niagara Falls and breakfast.  It took about an hour to reach the waterfalls and our first opportunity for food.  Watching the morning mist rise off the waterfalls was beautifully.  A few other tourists were there, but it was still peaceful.  Our next stop was the Niagara Park’s Botanical Gardens and Butterfly House.   Established in 1936, the nearly 100 acres of gardens contained perennials, rhododendrons, azaleas, a formal garden, as well as a rose garden featuring over 2,400 roses.

We soon entered Ontario’s wine region, but passed many wineries because they did not open until 11 a.m. Our first stop was at Reif Estate Winery, which first produced wine in its 1870’s coach house. After tasting several wines, we found room in our panniers for a few bottles.  We next toured Fort George.  The fort was built in the late 18th century to protect the British from the Americans and was the scene of several battles during the War of 1812. The fort had been restored and is now a national historic site. The fort’s exterior consisted of earthworks and palisades.  Its internal structures included an officer's quarters, blockhouses, and stone powder magazine.  Standing on one of the fort’s walls we saw America’s Fort Niagara across the river in New York.  

We stopped for lunch in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, a well-preserved 19th-century village.  During the War of 1812 the town was burnt to the ground by the American troops from Fort Niagara.  The town was packed with cyclists and tourist.  We had a tough choice picking a place for lunch from all the town’s interesting restaurants.  In the end, we chose the one with the most bicycles parked outside. For the rest of the afternoon, we cycled past many more wineries.

We got an early start to our 70 mile ride to Toronto, Ontario.  About half an hour down the road we stopped at a Tim Hortons restaurant (similar to Dunkin Donuts) for breakfast.   Unfortunately, we did not find any diners while in Canada and missed fresh eggs and pancakes.  Canada’s breakfast mainstay seemed to be the Tim Hortons, which are everywhere. 

Lakeside temperatures were cool, but when our route took us a few blocks inland we were warm.  No matter what we put on or took off, we could not find the “right” clothes. The closer we got to Toronto, the more cyclists we saw.   Appropriate gear seemed to be an issue for them as well.  Some cyclists were dressed for the cooler temperatures but others for warmer weather. 

In Port Credit, Ontario, we passed through a lake side park where several families were grilling their lunch.  The smells made us hungry and brought back memories of a similar day when we cycled down the Mississippi River. At that time, we were very hungry but did not find any place for lunch. As we passed through a similar community park we came upon a hotdog vendor with a line of folks waiting for lunch.  Today, we had the same experience when we passed a marina hosting a boat show and found another busy hotdog vendor.

Arriving in Toronto had several challenges.  First, the city is very large and it took a long time to cycle through it.  Second, there was a lot of road work that impacted our route and required many detours.  Third, new bike lanes were also being built but were not far enough along to do us much good. 

Leaving Toronto the next morning, we headed south east along the lake where we found the Guild Park.  We cycled through many parks along our route, but this was the most interesting.  The Guild of All Arts was founded in 1932 on 88 acres.   The Park includes a sculpture garden featuring works by notable Canadian artists as well as architectural remnants saved from dozens of Toronto’s heritage buildings demolished in the 1960s and 1970s.

Heading towards Cobourg, Ontario brought several significant changes in our adventure.  First, we moved out of the urban environment that we had been in since our trip began.  Our rural cycling brought less trails, and some of the trails were very rough in comparison to the ones in the urban areas.  Second, the weather changed from daytime temperatures in the 80s to the 50s. 

What hadn’t changed was the abundance of lilac bushes that were in full bloom.  They were everywhere along our route and put forth a sweet smell that filled the air.  The other constant was the abundance of red-winged black birds.  However, these birds continued to be camera shy and avoided our attempts to get a good picture.

Next, we passed through the town of Port Hope, Ontario.  The town was named for Colonel Henry Hope, the one-time lieutenant governor of the Province of Quebec.  A more interesting fact is that the town contains Canada’s largest volume of low-level radioactive wastes. These wastes resulted from the refining process used to extract radium from uranium ore.  Radium was used in "glow-in-the-dark" paint. We arrived in Port Hope “aglow” with thoughts about food.  We soon found Basel’s Deli and stopped for lunch.  This was the first “mom and pop” type restaurant that we found on this journey and was well worth the wait.  We had great sandwiches, hot tea, and cookies before visiting the Canadian Firefighters Museum.

A day later, on the way to Picton, Ontario, we saw a small sign indicating that a café was off-route at a nearby marina.  The Harbor View Café was open and the food was good.  The owner told us that she first opened the adjacent motel, then bought the marina, and just recently opened the café. This was our second interesting lunch stop.  We hoped that this trend would continue as we headed east.

After lunch we continued along the lake before heading inland where we passed over the Murray Canal on a swing bridge.  In the early afternoon, we passed through the Ontario towns of Wellington and Bloomfield, 2 arts communities.  These towns had art studios, craft shops, galleries and quilt murals painted on many of their buildings.  Signs indicated that we were on the Arts Trail. Ontario seemed to have “trails” to suit many interests.  In addition to the Arts Trail and the Waterfront Trail, we had also been on the Wine Trail, and after we left Colborne, Ontario, we were on the Apple Trail. 

We had a short ride to Glenora, Ontario, where we boarded a ferry for a 15 minute trip across the Bay of Quinte.  From there, we headed into Loyalist country where those loyal to the British Crown settled.  Many towns, structures, and monuments were designated “Loyalist…”  One monument along the waterfront commemorated the British frigate Royal George’s escape from the Americans.

It took about 2 hours to cycle through Kingston, Ontario, a large city with a population of 120,000.  Just past the city, we explored Fort Henry.  The fort is located on an elevated point near the mouth of the Cataraqui River where it flows into the St. Lawrence River at the east end of Lake Ontario.  The original fort was constructed during the War of 1812 to protect the Kingston Royal Naval Dockyard (the site of the present-day Royal Military College of Canada) from a possible American attack. The original fort was replaced by a much larger one in the 1830s and was restored in the 1930s.  As we entered the fort, a large group of school children, carrying sleeping bags, were also entering.  School groups can get a feel for 1800’s military life by staying overnight in the fort’s barracks.

The rest of our day we cycled towards our destination of Gananoque, Ontario. The waterfront town Gananoque has a population of 5,000 year-round residents but a larger number of summer residents.  The town has many fine restaurants and tourist attractions, such as boat tours through the St. Lawrence River’s Thousand Islands (yes, thousand islands dressing originated in this area). 
To get to the United States, we had a pleasant ride up the Thousand Islands Parkway.  As the morning mist lifted off the ponds and river, we had to cross 2 very long high arched bridges on very narrow walkways.  It was so narrow we had to walk our bikes but found that we had little room for us and our pannier laden bikes.  We wondered what would happen if we met anyone coming from the opposite direction.  We walked 1.5 miles and it probably took an hour to do so. 

Back in the United States, we headed east to the town of Alexandria Bay, New York.  There, we took a 2 hour boat ride through the Thousand Islands.  The tour took us past “Millionaire’s Row,” consisting of magnificent homes built during the gilded age.  Some of the boat houses were more grandiose than even the fanciest houses back home.  At the end of our tour we stopped on Heart Island to tour Boldt Castle.  The 120 room castle was built by George C. Boldt who became wealthy as the proprietor of many famous hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.  He purchased 6 islands and chose Hart (later changed to Heart) Island to build a castle for his wife, Louise.  Louise died before it was completed so George stopped work and never returned to the island.  From 1904 to 1977 the Castle deteriorated from lack of maintenance and vandalism.  In 1977 the Thousand Island Bridge Authority took over the property and started its restoration.  The finished sections are truly magnificent.  The island also has a child’s play house (also a castle) that is so large it could provide housing and recreation for a school house full of children.

In New York we generally followed the Seaway Tail (http://www.seawaytrail.com/) on our westward journey towards Buffalo, New York.  The Great Lakes Seaway Trail is a 518 mile scenic driving route that follows the shores of Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River in New York and Pennsylvania.

East of Clayton, New York, we stopped at a small batch distiller and sampled some of its aged bourbon.  In Clayton we visited the Antique Boat Museum.  It is a freshwater nautical museum that is filled with over 300 unique and beautifully-preserved boats and thousands of recreational boating artifacts. One of the buildings contained just speed boats that were massive and powered by very large engines.  While impressed with the speed, we preferred the craftsmanship of the pleasure boats and the museum’s boat restoration facility. 

We left Clayton looking for a breakfast place but did not find any until we reached Cape Vincent, New York, a small town on the St. Lawrence River about 12 miles away.  Much of our day’s journey was out of sight of the water.  When possible we took side routes to the water or entered the several river side parks along the route.  One of our side trips was to the town of Sackets Harbor, New York.  While we had marked this town as a possible place to visit, neither of us could remember why, nor did our notes give any hints.  We were pleasantly surprised by what we found.

Sackets Harbor was founded in 1801 by Augustus Sacket, a land speculator from New York City. He hoped that this location would foster trade across the Lake with Kingston, Ontario. As we entered the town we saw lots of old brick buildings, some in bad condition, others restored.  At the town’s visitors center we learned that this was the site of a US Navy shipyard and a headquarters for the Great Lakes. Some of these buildings pre-dated the War of 1812. The Army also constructed a fort to defend the village and Navy shipyard. By the fall of 1814, this was the third-largest population center in the state. Soon after the War of 1812, the Army strengthened its defenses on the northern frontier by constructing Madison Barracks—the old buildings we first saw as we entered the town.  The Madison Barracks have been designated as a Historic District and they are being redeveloped for commercial and residential use.

The receptionist at the visitor’s center also told us that Zebulon Pike was buried in Sackets Harbor and President Ulysses S. Grant served two tours of duty at Madison Barracks.  We were impressed by the town’s lively commercial district, and stopped at the Sackets Harbor Brewery for lunch and a beer.  Besides brewing their own beer, the sandwich rolls and chips were also made on site.

From Sackets Harbor we only had a 10 mile ride to Henderson Harbor, New York, for our nights lodging.  Our motel was on the grounds of the Aspinwall Homestead that was built in 1806, and currently serves as the motel’s office.  The Homestead was visited by Stonewall Jackson and artist Frederick Remington, and was used by runaway slaves traveling to Canada via the Underground Railroad system.


Unfortunately, our cycling trip ended in Oswego, New York.  From Oswego we had planned to follow a route along Lake Ontario’s shore to Rochester, New York, then cycle the Erie Canal back to Buffalo, New York. While we were not able to cycle all the way, we had a great time. We especially enjoyed the Canadian side of the lake because our route kept us close to, or on the waterfront. The New York side provided great cycling on mostly rural country roads.  The terrain on both sides of the lake was mostly flat.  Our daily stories, pictures, and maps can be viewed on our trip blog (http://lakeontarioloop.blogspot.com/).










Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Northwest Lancaster County River Trail

Photos by Dirck Harris

(Published in SPOKES, Summer 2015)

 My cycling friend Dirck is also a rail fan (a railway enthusiast that drives miles to experience railroad trains).  Rail trails are very popular with him, but he especially likes rail trails that have active railroads nearby.  When he discovered that the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail ran along a Norfolk Southern rail line, I knew that we would soon be heading there.  This trail runs along the Susquehanna River between Columbia and Falmouth, Pennsylvania.  It is a fourteen-mile long, multi-use, public recreation trail that goes through several interesting river towns.  While the trail is not completely asphalted, it provided an interesting ride on a warm fall day.


According to the trails website (http://www.nwrt.info/), “The trail follows the route of the historic Pennsylvania Mainline Canal and uses some of the original towpath that remains along the corridor. This provides ample opportunities to interpret the numerous industrial archaeological remains such as abandoned canal locks; the iron furnaces at Chickies Rock; and the old quarry operation at Billmeyer.”  While the whole trail is walkable from Columbia to Falmouth, we found that some sections are not ready for cyclist. 

We drove from Northern Virginia to Marietta, PA and parked in the Decatur Street trailhead parking lot (one of several trailhead parking areas along the trail). Since the trail heading up the river was paved, we chose to first cycle in that direction.  One only needs to look at Google Maps to see that Norfolk Southern has a main line along the trail and several railroad sidings, creating the potential for seeing trains.  Dirck, was not disappointed.  We soon passed a
freight train waiting at a signal. While I was focusing on the surrounding scenery, Dirck was checking out the train’s engines. Leaving the trackside (for only a short period), the trail took us along the river and by several farm fields that had recently been harvested.  We soon arrived at Riverfront Park.  We were told that the park is not only at the center of the trail but it is also a great meeting place for trail users, boaters, and picnickers.
 
Just past Riverfront Park we cycled under the Shocks Mill Bridge.  This bridge carries railroad trains across the Susquehanna River and had to be rebuilt after Hurricane Agnes destroyed a large section in 1972.  At this point, the trail deteriorated from its nice asphalt to rough gravel.  Our bikes bounced and rattled as we cycled over this section.  However, near the town of Bainbridge, (thankfully) the bouncing and rattling stopped. There the trail returned to a wonderful paved surface.  Bainbridge is a quaint river town. It has a restaurant just off the trail and easy access to the river’s edge.  The town also boasts a popular vineyard with summer entertainment.  Just a few miles away is the famous Three Mile Island electric power plant, site of the near nuclear meltdown in 1979.

Leaving Bainbridge we set out on the canal’s embankment.  Still clearly visible, the canal was built in the late 1700s to bypass the Conewago Falls on the Susquehanna River.  This section of the trail is nearly 4 miles long and ends in
Falmouth, PA, another river town.  However, the trail is now only designated as a walking trail.  Our ride on this section was cut short after we stopped to talk to a mountain biker.  He was walking towards us pushing his full-suspension 29er bicycle.  He said that the trail was too rough for him and that he had to walk most of the way.  Since we were on road bikes, we decided to turn around.  Cycling this section of the trail would have to wait for another day.


We retraced our route back to the town of Marietta, stopping only so Dirck could look at more railroad trains, check out some of the old railroad artifacts still visible along the way, and talk to other trail users.  As it was getting warmer trail usage increased.  Many of the users were from surrounding towns but, like us, several had driven miles to explore the River Trail.

Upon arriving back at the Marietta trailhead, we decided to cycle through the town rather than take the hiking trail that ran parallel along the river.   We were heading southeast toward the trails other end at Columbia, PA.  Marietta is an interesting and historic town.  It dates back to the early 1700.  Many old homes have been restored and the river town continues it rich railroad history.  While a small town, it has several interesting pubs and restaurants.   Based on recommendations from a few town folks we stopped at McCleary’s Irish Pub for lunch.  Their draft beer choices were extensive and the food was excellent.

At the other end of town, we got back on the trail at Chickes Rock Park.  The entrance to the park still has remnants of the old iron furnaces and rolling mills that used to be a major part of the town’s economy.  Initially the trail took us on park roads.  Once the road ended, we cycled on a packed earth and mulch trail that meandered through a wooded area for several miles.  About mid-point between Marietta and Columbia we came to a large cliff of quartzite rock that a young man and woman we descending.  While they had on the proper safety equipment and ropes, it still looked scary.  I would rather exercise on a bicycle than hang from a rope off a cliff. 

About a mile from Columbia, we had to get off our bikes and lift them over a large fallen tree that seemed to have been there for some time.  Nearer to Columbia the trail abruptly
stopped just before a tunnel that led into town.  It appears that the railroad has not yet given over this last section of right-of-way for the trail.  We were disappointed that we could not cycle through the tunnel and visit Columbia from the trail.  Reversing our direction, we stopped below the Breezyview Overlook, far above the trail.  Getting to the overlook required a long climb up the side of the mountain on a switch-back trail.  However, we decided to get there by riding the long way around using the roads.  Regardless of how you get there, the panorama of the Susquehanna River is worth the effort. 

We eventually got to Columbia which is the largest of the area’s river towns.  It has more than 10,000 residents with a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places…and more trains. Eventually, the trail will end here, at the town’s riverfront park.  This nice park has a great view of the river and some remaining Civil War era bridge piers. Other great Columbia attractions include the National Watch and Clock Museum, featuring a collection of over 12,000 time pieces, the Columbia Historic Market House, and the First National Bank Museum.

After loading our bikes on top of the car, we headed back to Northern Virginia.  Since Dirck was driving, our route took us by railroad sites in the Pennsylvania towns of York and Hanover, and the Maryland towns of Walkersville and Brunswick.  While Dirck was enjoying the trains in these towns, I was fantasizing about how those railroad right-of-ways would make great rail trails.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Greenbrier River Trail

(Published in SPOKES, Spring 2015)



In late September, wanting a long ride before the weather turned cold, I headed to West Virginia’s Greenbrier River Trail (GRT).  I have always found driving in West Virginia to be challenging, but it is always worth the climbs and twisting roads.  This trip was no different.

The GRT is part of the State’s park system and runs 80 miles between towns of Cass and Lewisburg, West Virginia.  For all practical purposes, this is a flat trail with just over 700 feet of elevation change from end-to-end.  During my ride, I wondered why my drive involved so much climbing to get to such a flat trail.  The trail’s surface is mostly packed gravel and provides relatively easy cycling.




I left my car in Lewisburg and used a shuttle service offered by Free Spirit Adventures (www.freespiritadventures.com) to take me to Cass to start my ride south.  While several shuttle services are available, Free Spirit seemed to best accommodate my needs and schedule.  In addition to the trail head, the town of Cass is also home to the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park.  Here you can embrace the town’s logging history by riding a steam driven logging train up into the mountains.  Cycling out of Cass to the trail head (about ½ mile) I passed the many “company houses” that have been restored and are available for rent.  In contrast to historic Cass, just a few miles away is the Green Bank Science Center that houses the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.  Taking in both sites, allows one to go from train travel to space exploration with just a few miles of additional cycling.

I started cycling early in the morning with a definite fall chill in the air (it was only 39 degrees F) and with low hanging fog hiding much of my surroundings.  I anticipated cooler temperatures and brought along my panniers to carry the clothing that I knew I would shed along the way.  As the fog lifted, I realized that my visit on the GRT was premature to enjoy the fall’s changing colors. 

One reason that this trail appealed to me was its extensive integration into nature.This is in direct contrast to the urban trials, where I do a good deal of my cycling. Trail literature promotes the area’s remoteness: it “…lies adjacent to the Monongahela National Forest, Seneca State Forest and Watoga State Park for most of its length…” I was not disappointed.

In the first 20 miles I only shared the trail with deer, lots of deer, a few ground hogs, and a bald eagle.  The only disappointment was the lack of water in the Greenbrier River.  In many places the water was so low I could have walked across the river, without getting my ankles wet.

About 15 miles from Cass, I encountered the first of the trail’s 2 tunnels—Sharp’s Tunnel.  This tunnel dates to 1900 and is just over 500 feet long.  The tunnel curved, blocking my view of the other end.  However, it only took a few minutes to let my eyes adjust and I was soon out the other side where I immediately crossed the river on a bridge.  While this was a typical wooden trail bridge, some of the railroad’s steel trestle bridges are still used on the trail.  I was now 10 miles from Marlinton, West Virginia. 

I soon encountered the first, of the few other trail users I saw.  This man was on a 2 week cycling vacation, stopping at all the rail trails between his home in Alabama and Washington, D.C.  Heading north east allowed him to cycle 2 of Virginia’s great trails—the Virginia Creeper and the New River Trail.  Before going our separate ways, he was kind enough to take my picture cycling on the trail. 

Marlinton is the only “town” on the trail.  In Marlinton I saw the last remaining railroad water tank
on the GRT.  It was erected in 1932 for the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) railroad and has been restored. The town’s 1901 depot is also being restored after being damaged by a fire several years ago.  The railroad came into being to carry logs down river in the early 1900s.  After seeing how low the river was, I understood why the logging companies gave up floating their harvest downstream.  Rail passenger service continued until the late 1950s and the C&O’s freight service was terminated in the late 1970s. 

I reached Marlinton at lunch time and asked several folks for recommendations on where to eat.  I prefer local business that let you experience the town’s charms.  The response was unanimous, and I headed to Rayetta’s Lunchbox.  This was a real find.  It was full of folks that Rayetta addressed by name.  When it was my time to order, I naively asked for a menu and was told that there was none.  Rayetta served only 3 things, hot dogs, nachos, and a daily special, which I purchased—tomato bisque soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. When finished, I spotted some chocolate marble cupcakes with a fluffy caramel icing.  The cupcake tasted as good as it looked but it cost as nearly as much as my soup and sandwich.  However, it was well worth the price and I know that I would burn the added calories as I headed south. 

While most of the trail is crushed gravel, the trail through Marlinton is asphalt.  The paved section provided smoother and faster cycling, but it took away from the rest of the trail’s natural setting. 

Before leaving town, I peeled off another layer of clothing.  I was beginning to relate to an onion.  Heading south, I took note of the many trail-side camp sites.  I believe that there were more than a dozen such sites. Most locations had packed gravel tent pads, a picnic table, and pit toilets.   Some also had water pumps and Adirondacks (a 3-sided wooden building) where several people could sleep.  In addition to on-trail accommodations the trail guide identifies many off-trail lodgings.  These included motels, bed and breakfasts, cabins, and campgrounds. 

Pearl Buck’s birthplace can been seen in the town of Hillsboro (just a short ride off the trail).  She is best known for her novel “The Good Earth” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.  Her home is only 2.5 miles off the trail and only about 200 feet of climbing.  It was an interesting side trip.

About 50 miles into my journey I came upon the trail’s second tunnel.  The Droop Mountain Tunnel 

is only 400 feet long.  At the tunnel entrance I head voice coming from the tunnel and decided to wait to see who would emerge.  In a few minutes 3 women riding horses came out.  I am glad I waited; I don’t know how I would have made out in the dark with 3 horses coming at me head-on.  The women stopped to talk and asked me to take some pictures for them. This was the first time one of the women was able to get her horse to go through the tunnel and she wanted it documented. Like the first tunnel, this one also curved and required waiting for my eyes to adjust to the low light before going through.

Other than Marlinton, the trail provides mostly wilderness cycling.  However, there are some sections along the way where cabins can be seen on the river bank.  Other than these cabins and a correctional facility that abuts the trail near mile post 39, I was just “one with nature”.  The lack of cell phone service also helped keep me focused on the joys of my solitary time away from my normal urban life.


Approaching the trails end, I started to encounter other trail users, mostly cyclists and dog walkers.  I am usually the “slow rider” and I am usually passed where ever I cycle.  However, this is the first ride that no one passed me and I went 80 miles.  While I would like to think that I was faster than other trail users, in reality the trail was just not busy at this time of the year.  I ended my solitary sojourn with a beer and dinner in a crowded Lewisburg restaurant.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Off 13: Cycling the Country Roads of Virginia’s Eastern Shore


Photos by Joseph Insalaco
(Published in SPOKES, Fall 2014)

Several years ago I had a great cycling trip in Virginia’s northern neck region (east of Fredericksburg, Virginia) and longed to again enjoy its charms.  A friend suggested that I consider going even further east and cycle the Virginia’s Eastern Shore region. He even offered a regional guide by Kirk Mariner entitled Off 13: The Eastern Shore of Virginia Guidebook.  U.S. Route 13 is a four lane highway that runs down the center of the Eastern Shore.  Mariner’s book focuses on the historical homes, churches, buildings, and scenic waterways that can be viewed from country roads found on the bayside and seaside of Route 13.  Once the idea took hold, I contacted my long time cycling friend Joe, and we soon found ourselves heading southeast on our bicycles from my Northern Virginia home.  Our route took us along the Potomac River into Virginia's Northern Neck.  From there we crossed the Chesapeake Bay and spent a week touring Virginia's Eastern Shore.  Finally, we crossed the bay to the Maryland side of the Potomac River for our trip back to Northern Virginia.
 
Leaving Northern Virginia on a mix of roads and trails, we cycled first to historic Occoquan, Virginia.  From there we followed Adventure Cycling’s East Coast route to Fredericksburg, Virginia.  While it was a long day of 83 miles, we had great weather.   Along the way we met 3 cyclists from Kansas also heading into the Northern Neck and a couple from San Francisco who were cycling to New York City.  

Fredericksburg dates back to the early 1700 and offered many tourist options. Within 3 miles of our downtown hotel we saw Kenmore Hall (home of George Washington’s sister), Mary Washington College, a large farmers market and art festival in a city park, an antique car show in the historic district, and George Washington’s childhood home called Ferry Farms.  While the Ferry Farm’s “home” is not much more than a foundation and an archaeological digging site, the farm has been recreated.  Our tour of the farm was self-guided using an IPad that provided detailed information on each point of interest.

Leaving Fredericksburg, we followed Adventure Cycling’s Potomac Heritage Route that took us east.  Our next stop was at George Washington’s birthplace.  Unfortunately, none of the original structures remain on this property, but the foundation of the original home had been unearthed.  According to our docent, the house on the property is relatively new and is only a replica of a grandiose colonial home.  From the foundation’s footprint, George’s birth home was much smaller and simpler.  However, the nearby Stratford Hall, Robert E. Lee’s birthplace, was built in the 1730s and is quite grand.

Cycling on country roads often lets an ill prepared cyclist go hungry.  That was us about 1:30 in the afternoon.  We were famished and quickly approaching Route 301, the major north-south highway through the Northern Neck region.  We hoped we would find at least a fast food restaurant near the intersection.  When we got to Route 301, however, we did not see any place to eat, just two new car dealerships.  Since we needed water, we went into the Dodge dealership.  We were directed to a water fountain where we also found some vending machines, which supplied our lunch.  We felt like poor relatives as we ate crackers while looking at a $150,000 Dodge Viper sitting on the showroom floor.  The day’s weather was a little warm, but the ride was still good.  We cycled 54 miles, about half of the time on the highways and the other on country roads, as we continued east to Montrose, Virginia.

On our cycling trips, we are often blessed with small gems that just make a day wonderful.  Last night, when checking into our motel, the clerk told us that the only two options for breakfast were either going back 2 miles into downtown Montrose, or 13 miles east.  The western option was for a local coffee shop that did not open until 8 a.m. The eastern option would take us off our planned country road route and to a fast-food restaurant.  Neither option was appealing because we like early starts and country roads.  The next morning, looking out of our motel room, we noticed that the gas station/Subway restaurant across the highway was open.  Unfortunately, the Subway part of the business did not open until 9 a.m.  However, a nice woman told us to “walk 1 block west and go to Johnny Wilkinson’s store, because he makes breakfast sandwiches.”  Johnny not only made us a great breakfast, but also sandwiches to go.  Never did a processed ham and cheese sandwich ever taste so good when we stopped for lunch.  It surely beat yesterday’s lunch out of a vending machine. We had no idea why the motel clerk did not offer this option to us.

Since our planned ride to Reedville, Virginia, was relatively short, we decided to go 5 miles off route and visit the Athena Winery.  There Ruth, one of the owners, told us that they have been growing grapes for 13 years. She admitted that it took a while for them to produce good wine. We sampled each of their wines and purchased a bottle for later.   While at the winery we found 2 entertaining Killdeer birds.  They built their nest in the gravel right next to the parking lot. When we got close, the bird on the nest would spread her trail feathers and the other would hop away and lie on its back and flap its wings as if it were injured.  Ruth told us that these birds have been building their nest in the same spot for years and entertaining her guests.  You would think that they would move away from all the commotion of the parking lot, but I guess they just like to people watch.

In Reedville, we stayed at the Grandview B&B that was just a few miles from where we would meet our boat the next morning.  The B&B’s name is well deserved with its view of the bay.  In the “it’s a small world,” our hostess grew up in Falls Church several houses away from the home where I live.  The Grandview’s hospitality was wonderful and worthy of another visit.

We had a short bike ride from our B&B to where our chartered boat picked us up for the ride to the Eastern Shore.  The boat, Joyce Marie II, is a 36 feet long fiberglass boat with a 4 foot draft. According to our characterized by a sharp bow that quickly becomes a flat V shape moving aft along the bottom of the hull.  It has a small cabin structure and a large open work area aft.  It is the traditional boat used by watermen for everything from crabbing and oystering, to catching fish.   
captain, Mark Crockett, the boat was built in the traditional Chesapeake Bay deadrise style.  A deadrise style boat is


The Bay was very choppy and our ride was rough so we appreciated a several hour layover on Tangier Island.  Not only did it give us a chance to regain our land legs, it also allowed us to tour the island.  The English settlement dates back to the 1600s, but Native Americans occupied the island long before.  The island currently supports about 450 people and its economy is based on tourism, crabs, and oysters.  Mark lives on the island and operates a passenger ferry service between the island and town of Onancock, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.   He was born on the island and has lived there all his 55 years.  He told us that he is a fifth generation Crockett on the island.  Looking at how low the land was in relation to the water level, I wonder just how long the island will survive. 

We arrived on the Eastern Shore in the early afternoon and cycled to our motel in nearby Onley, Virginia.  After dropping off our panniers, we toured Onancock and some of the surrounding country side.  With views of the old homes and waterways, our short ride was a precursor of what was to come.

Virginia’s Eastern Shore is about 70 miles long and 10 miles wide.  Cycling it is flat and easy, with the high point being about 60 feet above sea level.  We started our tour by heading south on the bayside of the Eastern Shore.  Much of Virginia’s Eastern Shore is very rural with farms, plant nurseries, fishing villages, and small towns. We varied our route to include trips to the water’s edge and through the small
communities.  While many of the old houses and churches we saw were interesting, we were not sure why some were included and others excluded from our guidebook.  Somewhat disappointing were the houses and churches that were covered in aluminum siding.  I understand the necessity for preservation and reduced maintenance, but the structures lost much of their appeal with the addition of modern siding.

Our end point for the first day was the Holiday Inn Express, in Exmore, Virginia.  Following Route 13, Exmore is only 13 miles away.  However, our trip on the bayside roads was 52 miles long.  This was typical of our “off 13” mileage.  If we wanted to get somewhere fast, Route 13 would have been the way.  However, fast was not our goal.

The next day we continued south down the bayside to Machipongo, Virginia where the bayside route ended.  From there we looped south on the seaside to Oyster, Virginia.  Oyster is a fishing village on seaside, but it is not on the ocean.  With the barrier islands, the ocean is not easily accessible on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  After spending some time watching the fishermen we headed back to Exmore.  We cycled 60 miles and ended up back at the same Exmore motel. 

The following morning started with “pea soup thick” fog that definitely impacted the quantity and quality of our photographs.   However, we found a few interesting things.  The first was supposed to have been miles away on yesterday’s route. However, we found the Cobb Railway Station in downtown Exmore.  The station had been recently moved and was undergoing renovations.  Nearby, we also saw an Eastern Shore Railroad caboose, the only remains of that railroad we found.

As the fog lifted we entered the town of Accomac, Virginia There we saw hundreds of old homes, some of which dated back to the early 1700s.  According to our guidebook, Accomac is so historic that almost the whole town is included as a historic district. The town dates back to the 1600’s when it was chosen for the county seat.  Near noon we arrived in the town of Atlantic, Virginia, one of the few “off 13” towns that had a restaurant.  The town was also home to Marshall Manufacturing Company, one of the few places on the Chesapeake Bay that makes wire-mesh crab pots.

Later in the day we stopped at NASA’s Wallops Island. Wallops Flight Facility was established in 1945 as a center for aeronautic research.  We had timed our Eastern Shore visit to witness a rocket launch, but it was delayed beyond our stay.  We spent an hour touring its visitor’s center but were not sure if we stayed so long because the exhibits were that interesting, or if the air conditioning was just so nice. 

We reached Chincoteague in the afternoon and dropped our gear at our motel before cycling out to Assateague Island and visiting the National Seashore National Park and the island’s 1833 lighthouse.  From there we continued east to the Atlantic Ocean.  Assateague is one of the few places where the ocean is accessible on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  I waded into the ocean to satisfy some symbolic notion of dipping my toes into the water at our most eastern spot. 

The next day, we cycled a 50 mile loop from Chincoteague that took us north to Maryland, then west to the bayside, before heading back east.  Our first stop into history was Horntown.  According to our guide book, Horntown “is not only faded, it is actually disappearing…Once one of the largest communities on the Shore...”  It was interesting to imagine the town as a large vibrant community.   We next headed to the “marrying tree” where Virginia couples “stepped over the line” to take advantage of Maryland’s younger marrying age.   While the tree was not that interesting, we got there on a serpentine road that took us back and forth between the two states several times in a few hundred yards.  Mostly we cycled through farm lands and forests where we made several additional stops at historic homes and peaceful waterways. 

Our time on the Eastern Shore was quickly drawing to a close.  We had to get back to Onancock, Virginia early the next morning, to catch our boat.  We wanted to leave our Chincoteague motel at 6 a.m. to beat the day’s forecasted 95 degree temperature.  However, the motel desk clerk said that breakfast would not be set out until 7 a.m.  As we were leaving, she decided to break the rules and give us some food. We were initially flattered that she would do this for 2 old (but good looking) guys, until we realized that she just wanted someone to talk to.  Among many other things, we heard about her first and only bike ride that was 7 miles and her first and only camping trip where everyone got sick.  Despite all the talk, she was a real sweetie and provided a good breakfast.

From our motel we headed west to get on the bayside roads that would take us south.  Mostly, we cycled through rural farm lands, wet lands, and swampy forests.  The only town on our nearly 60 mile journey was Parksley, VA, where we had lunch and visited the Eastern Shore Railroad Museum. The museum offered several examples of rail cars that traveled the Eastern Shore, but did not have any of the Eastern Shore Railroad.  Our destination was back to the motel in Onley, Virginia. Onley was one of several Eastern Shore towns that sprang up along the railroad in the mid-1880. Because of its location, the village was originally known as Crossroads.  We were told that Onley is currently Virginia’s largest commercial area on the Eastern Shore and recently welcomed the only Walmart. 

As we waited for our boat to depart from Onancock, Virginia for Point Lookout, Maryland, we got another glimpse of “island life”.  Mark, our captain, had brought his dog with him from Tangier.  The dog was injured and needed to have veterinarian care.  While we waited for Mark’s return, Norwood, one of his buddies showed up.  Norwood was born on Smith Island but now lives on Tangier Island.  He is responsible for maintaining the underwater electric cable that powers Tangier.  He said that both he and Mark have cars in Chrisfield, Maryland, so they can get around when on the mainland.  However, neither had a car in Onancock and Mark had to have someone pick him up and take him and his dog to the vet.  Norwood likened living on an island to living on a farm.  He said that, instead of driving to town, islanders take a boat.  I understand the analogy but think it a little weak when you try comparing walking from a farm to swimming from an island.  We also met Bonnie who shops for island residents, and brings the items to Mark’s boat when he is in Onancock. 

We arrived in Point Lookout at noon and started cycling in the heat of the day.  We made several stops for drinks and to take a few pictures in St. Mary’s, MD.  St. Mary’s was Maryland’s first capital and is home to St. Mary’s college.  After that we pushed for a total of 62 miles in temperatures that hit the high 90s.  The last 9 miles into LaPlata, Maryland were on Route 301. We caught a tail wind that allowed us to fly.  Even with a 5 mile stretch that was milled into a bumpy mess, we traveled at 18 to 20 mph. 

We left LaPlata, MD at 6 in morning to try to beat the heat, which was again predicted to be in the high 90s. Our route took us over country roads, which unfortunately, were filled with early morning commuter traffic. However, once we reached National Harbor, Maryland, we were on bike trails that offered a very relaxed ride.  We crossed the Potomac River on the Wilson Bridge bike trail.  In Virginia, we took the George Washington Trail to National Airport, the Four Mile Run Trail to Sherlington, and finally the Washington and Old Dominion Trail to Falls Church.  Our trip covered 650 miles by bike and 70 miles by boat over 12 days.  Our daily blog, photos, and routes can be seen at http://chesapeakebaybybike.blogspot.com/.




Tuesday, October 29, 2013

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY: COMPLETING LEWIS AND CLARK’S JOURNEY

Photos by Joseph Insalaco
 
In 2009, two of my friends and I headed west from St. Louis following Lewis & Clark’s route. At that time only one of us, Hans-Peter, made it to the Pacific Ocean. In 2013, Joe and I headed west again to complete the journey.  Since Lewis and Clark took over 2 years (1804-1806) to finish, we felt that our delay was for purely historical purposes. During our trip, we posted a blog providing daily events, mileage, and photographs (http://lewisandclark2013.blogspot.com/).

After each of my cycling trips, I am asked questions like, “how was it” or “what part did you like the best.”   My answer is usually, “fantastic” followed up by a couple of good stories.   In some ways this trip had some real challenges that, at the time, seemed to overwhelm the many great things we experienced.  It took me a while to decide how I could characterize this adventure without the tough parts dominating the story.  After some contemplation, I thought of the title of Clint Eastwood’s epic spaghetti western, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” and it seemed to fit our trip.
 
The GOOD
 
When Joe and I got off the train in Havre, Montana (the end of our 2009 trip) it was raining heavily (it was ugly) and my bike was missing (that was bad).  Both of these events could have a real damper on any cycling trip.   However, spending an extra day waiting for my bike allowed 3 good things to happen.  First, because we were unable to start cycling we avoided the heavy rains that fell the next morning and into the mid-afternoon.  Second, we visited Havre’s tourist attractions.  Third, our friend, Hans-Peter who was cycling from the Pacific Ocean to Bar Harbor, Maine, met us in Havre the next day. 


The town dates back to late 1800 when it started as a rough and tumble railroad and military town with few women but lots of bars and brothels.  A fire in 1904 destroyed five blocks of its business district.  The businesses soon reopened in their remaining basements and continued to operate underground even as the town was rebuilt above them, thus Havre Underground.  As the city above was rejuvenated, clear glass blocks were installed in the sidewalks to allow light into the underground.  As the glass blocks aged they turned purple, creating an interesting underground mosaic.  The recreated underground businesses include a brothel, bars, dental office, drug store, meat market, law office, bakery, laundry, and opium den.  While no brothels or opium dens were visible during our above-ground tour of Havre, the town still seems like it has a rough edge with lots of bars and casinos.
 
Our next tourist stop was the “Buffalo Jump,” about 8 miles from Havre.  The Buffalo Jump got its name from the Native American practice of stampeding buffalo over a cliff so meat and hides could be harvested. The site dates back 2,000 years and was preserved as the hillside collapsed and covered the remains.  In the late 1960s, archaeologists began uncovering 3 distinct layers of activity.  

 
Hans-Peter arrived later in the day.  That evening we cycled to one of Havre’s restaurants that overlooked the town.  There, we enjoyed swapping stories over dinner and beers.
 
Several days after leaving Havre, we had a string of good days.  From Great Falls we headed southwest on an old highway that was devoid of traffic as it paralleled the Interstate. We headed towards picturesque mountain ranges.  While the closer mountains were scenic, behind them sat even larger snowcapped mountains that caught our attention.  Pronghorn antelopes were in the fields and raced us as we moved westward.  When we reached the town of Cascade, we stopped at the newly remodeled Cascade Coffee and Café where the owner and her short-order chef served us great food and warn hospitality. 
 
Leaving Cascade, we cycled along the Missouri River.  The terrain slowly changed and became hilly as we approached Tower Rock State Park, noted in Meriwether Lewis’ journal as “The Tower.” Lewis reported that he climbed the 400 foot rock with some difficulty but from there saw a pleasing view of the country…and immense herds of buffalo in the plains below.  Just past the Park we could see the nearby Interstate climb up into the mountains.  However, we continued on our county road that ran alongside the river avoiding a big climb and providing us with a scenic ride.  Following the Missouri River, we soon entered a canyon that snaked through sheer cliffs for about 15 miles of cycling bliss.  We ended the day at the “town” of Wolf Creek that provided us good lodging and meals.  The town, however, wasn’t much more than several outfitters, 2 motels (only one still in business), a post office, 2 bars, a few homes and a church.
 
Days later, in Lolo Hot Springs, Montana, we were “treated” to a concert so it must fit the “good” category.   One of the first things we did upon our arrival was relax in the hot springs.  Later, we went to the bar for our meal and were immediately thrown into a time warp.  When making our reservations we were told that a “pirate concert” would be happening just across the highway from our lodge.  Neither of us took this warning too seriously. We still don’t know what a pirate concert is, but the clothing the kids were wearing was a direct throwback to the 1970s.  The guys were skuzzy and the girls half dressed.  Yes, we are officially old (which may be bad but does give us time to take cycling trips).  Furthermore, the music was nothing we could relate to.  It was a throbbing bass that literally vibrated our motel room that was 300 yards away from the stage. 
 
We left at dawn the next morning accompanied by the continuing loud music and a barrage of fireworks that sailed into the air in our honor…at least that is what we believed.  We climbed a long, but easy, incline for about an hour before the road got steeper as we crossed over Lolo Pass at 5,233 feet.  It was a relatively easy climb but the temperatures were in the mid-thirties and we were cold.  Next, we had a fast 5 mile downhill ride that took us to Powell, Idaho were we stopped for breakfast.  (In 2002, we camped here when we cycled across the United States.)  Powell is not a town but rather a ranger station with a camp ground, cabins, and a great restaurant. As we turned off the highway, we met Reinhare a cyclist from Germany and joined him for breakfast.  Reinhare was cycling from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine.  Our breakfast was excellent but too much for us to consume, which was good because it provided 2 large huckleberry pancakes for lunch. 
 
The rest of the day, we enjoyed a gradual decline, as we followed the Lochsa River for the next 70 miles. This was the beginning of several fantastic days.  As we continued westward, we met more cyclists.  Becky and Denis were cycling home to Delaware and were only 7 days from their start in Portland, Oregon. While we recommended the restaurant in Powell, they warned us that all we had to look forward to were fried foods and hamburgers until we got closer to Portland. 
 
The Lochsa River is scenic and fast moving. It races over rocks and around sharp bends through a valley of pine trees and steep hills. Along the way we saw many white water rafters which provided us with a great diversion. We would race ahead of the rafts to a good spot for photographs and after they passed we would race to the next spot for more pictures.  With our racing, the heat and head winds, we found ourselves low on drinking water.  But, as the old saying goes, “the road provides,” and one of the raft group support vehicles had plenty of water to share. 

At Three Forks, the Lochsa River merged with the Selway River and later the Clearwater River.  The river became less wild as it became wider and calmer but we were still faced with a constant head wind.  As we entered Orofino, Idaho, we saw a new motel across the river that was not on our list of lodgings.  While our “planned” lodging was 2 miles further downriver, we could not pass up a new motel.   The rate matched the prevailing rate on this trip but we got a much better lodging than most nights.  When we entered the lobby, Courtney, the manager, greeted us with bottles of cold water, and a warm smile.  Another woman, who introduced herself as the breakfast hostess, asked if we planned to leave early the next day.  When we told her that we did, she said she would have breakfast ready earlier than scheduled.  Sure enough, at 5:30 the next morning we had fresh coffee, real eggs, sausages, etc., and a wonderful start to our day.   Now that was good!
 
Sometimes, those ugly head winds actually produced good results.  We had been leaving early to avoid the head winds that start as the day warms.  Leaving Pomeroy, Washington we encountered 20 to 25 mph winds out of the south west.  It was ok for awhile because we were not headed directly into the wind and had a 15 mile gradual downhill.  However, when our direction changed directly to the southwest, things got tough.  As if the steady winds were not bad enough, the gusts were much stronger and occasionally blew us off the road. (We learned later that the gusts were 30 to 40 mph.)  We finally arrived in Dayton, Washington, and decided to stop for the day. 
 
Dayton is a real gem that we would have missed if we continued with the day’s planned mileage.  Not to waste the day, we took a walking tour of Dayton, which dates back to 1860.  Dayton’s downtown has not only survived but appears to be thriving.  In addition to our motel (another new Best Western), we found several nice restaurants, a brew pub, several cafes, the usual bar and pizza places, several stores, art galleries, and antique shops. We also saw the historic county courthouse and the restored train station--built in 1881 by the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company and is the oldest surviving train station in Washington. 
 
 During our walk we decided to check out each of the restaurant’s dinner menus.  We stopped first at the Fire and Irons Brewpub and sampled several beers.  Next we wandered into the Manila Bay Asian Café that required reservations and had some very interesting but expensive menu items. Near the end of our walk we found Weinhard Café and went back there for dinner.  Dinner started with local beers, cream of asparagus soup, mixed green salad and their own flat bread with a chickpea and radish spread.  For our main course we each had fresh halibut over a bed of rice topped with green curry sauce and a side of asparagus spears.  For dessert Joe had pecan pie and I had the black berry cobbler.  The menu changes daily and the breads and desserts are all “house made.” This was a fantastic meal and a far cry from the ever-prevalent hamburgers and fried chicken.
 

For several days, we had to cycle on the Interstate Highway that ran next to the Columbia River.  It should have been scenic but with the traffic noise and headwinds we just wanted to pound out the miles and get to The Dalles, Oregon.  This is where the Gorge transitioned from high desert to a rainforest environment.   Leaving The Dalles, we cycled on a trail that took us west along the Columbia River.  While the trail was paved, it was more of a nature trail;  meandering with lots of twists and turns meant to give the trail user a look at the flora and fauna that grows in the marsh along the river.  From there we got on Historic Route 30, a rarely used road that goes into the mountains overlooking the river.  Parts of this route are closed to motorized vehicles which was good.  It also  
had some climbs but we enjoyed the vistas and lack of traffic that took us into Hood River, Oregon.

  
From Cascade Locks we again cycled on a bike path that took us west along the Interstate for about 5 miles.  From there, we had to get on the Interstate for only 3 miles before transitioning back to “Historic Route 30” that took us by many large water falls.  Most notable is the Multnomah Falls, the highest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge with a total drop of 620 feet.  Later, we had a long climb up to Vista House that was above the clouds (not that we were so high but the clouds were low over the river) and offered a wonderful view of the Columbia River and valley below.  As we continued west, we cycled along the top of the ridge for several miles before we came to the long anticipated downhill that dropped us back to the river and led us into Portland, Oregon.  As we worked our way into the city, we cycled mostly on bike paths along the Columbia River with Mount Hood looming behind us.  Once we got into the city, we headed for the River City Bike shop where we left our bikes to be shipped home.

 

THE BAD

After reading about the good, you may not be sympathetic about the “bad” we encountered. But one day was truly bad and cannot be ignored.  In Fort Benton, Montana, we woke to heavy rains and cold temperatures and contemplated staying in our motel for another day.  However, we thought we could tough out the weather but it really punished us.  The temperature stayed in the low 50s and the wind blew the rain under our protective gear making us wet and cold.  We worried about hyperthermia and there was no place to get out of the weather—no gas station, restaurant, roadside shelter—so we just had to push on to Great Falls, Montana, 43 miles away.  At the first motel we found, we took long hot showers, enjoyed several hot drinks, and blasted the heat in our room. Surprisingly, several days later as we were again battling headwinds up a 2 mile climb (near Helena, Montana) we met Marlowe Rames who had a different perspective to our bad day.  Marlowe told us he wanted to talk to us because he saw us cycling in the rain on the road to Great Falls.  He told us how tough he thought we were cycling in such bad weather and wished he had the determination to do what we did.  Gee, we thought that we were just stupid.
 

THE UGLY

I have made several references to the head winds we encountered on this trip.  Let me get this over with quickly. We had head winds during most of our trip and some days they were downright challenging.  Before undertaking this journey, we checked into the common belief that the winds are predominately from the west.  What we found out was that the trade winds are from the west but they are thousands of feet in the air pushing airliners east.  Surface winds, however, are “usually” from the south; except in the Columbia River George which acts like a wind tunnel. 
 
The winds up the Columbia River Gorge were as bad as predicted but they weren’t the worst and most days the winds came from the west; so much for our research.  At the end of one of our particular tough days we received an email from our friend Hans-Peter.  As you will recall, he was heading east and we were going west.  Hans-Peter complained that the headwinds were also keeping him from moving.  We wondered how it could be that the east bound cyclist and west bound cyclist both have head winds.  The old cyclist’s adage must be true, “no matter which way you are heading, you will have a headwind.” 
 
THE END

 In no way would I compare our “struggles” with those of Lewis and Clark.  Nor was our ending dramatic like an Eastwood movie.  In fact, our last miles between Portland and Astoria, Oregon, were not spent on our bikes but in a car reducing our travel time from 2 days to just hours.  After spending a day in Astoria, we drove back to Portland where we caught flights to our homes. Despite the headwinds and one cold/wet day, we had a great trip.