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/.