Roger Hebbert's rooftop bicycle rack casts a shadow on his drive from Colorado
to Washington, D.C.
Joe Maitner on the Longleaf Trace
in Hattiesburg, Miss.
We want to hear from you!
More Trail Tales
For the Fall 2009 issue of Rails to Trails, we asked our readers: What's the farthest you've traveled to reach a rail-trail?
We certainly hit on an engaging topic, because we haven't received such a flood of responses in quite some time. Many readers crossed several states, by car, plane or bicycle, to reach a trail and then covered many more miles on the trail itself. In each case, the extra effort of reaching the destination seemed to enrich the appreciation of the trail. We only have space for one response in the magazine, so enjoy these extra stories of dedicated rail-trail explorers below.
John F. McKee of Sugar Grove, Ill., writes:
In June 2007, I drove from home in Aurora, Ill., to Middleton, Wis. (146 miles) in order to meet my special-needs grandson, Nick, age 12. Nick was an absolute model traveler as we boarded a plane in Madison and flew to Washington, D.C. (774 miles). We were met by Nick's dad/my son Steve, who works in Columbia, Md., and commutes weekly from his home in Wisconsin.
Our plan was to bike a portion of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal towpath, which parallels the Potomac River. We rented bikes in Georgetown and on Day 1 rode to Williamsport, Md. Our bright-colored jerseys caught the attention of a local news photographer, who recorded our story and photo in the next day's edition of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. From the paper, I purchased a mug showing Steve and Nick on their tandem, with me alongside. Day 2 was a return leg, but with stops at Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry in West Virginia.
This is a great historical trail with a wonderful story of the canal and towpath used to transport goods from the Midwest to the East Coast in the 19th Century. In addition, there is a rich tradition of the onset of the Civil War, reflected by monuments, memorabilia and historical records. Mix this with intergenerational biking, and it's hard to find a more memorable experience. We three have been biking together for the past several years, including trail adventures in Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin. Our plan is to continue as long as grandpa holds out!
Joe Maitner of Wyoming, Mich., writes:
With retirement approaching and having just finished David Lamb's Over the Hills, it was a good time to plan my first solo bike trip. Research led me to Pennsylvania's Schuylkill River Trail. The Schuylkill begins at Valley Forge and follows the river 25 miles to Philadelphia. Convinced that if Lamb, a 54 year-old smoker and non-biker, could ride from D.C. to California, I could certainly do the 25-mile Schuylkill. However, since it was approximately 700 miles from my home in Michigan to Valley Forge, it was hard to justify a 25-mile bike trip environmentally, let alone selling the idea to my wife. It became necessary to identify additional trails.
A long-time interest in the Civil War meant adding a side trip to bike the Gettysburg Battleground, which proved even more rewarding than anticipated. After Gettysburg, it seemed appropriate to bike the Valley Forge site and the Schuylkill River Trail. The Schuylkill ride proved to be a great mix of country, urban and city scenery, though a little confusing at times. I found myself on what I was later to discover was a towpath. The first person I stopped to get directions happened to be from Michigan but was able to put me back on the path to Boat House Row and the terminus of the trail, the Art Museum.
After the Schuylkill, I headed to Washington Crossing and biked along the towpath to New Hope, a short but historically rich path. It was enlightening to discover how wide the Delaware River is where George Washington and his troops crossed. Heading home included a stop to bike the Cuyahoga Valley Canal near Cleveland. This linear National Park and towpath was very scenic, connecting Cleveland and Akron, but also allowed me to discover the "Emerald Necklace," a series of parks circling Cleveland.
Since that trip a few years ago, my wife and I have more recently driven more than 1,000 miles to bike the Longleaf Trace in Hattiesburg, Miss. A great ride but our goal was not to ride the trail but rather to leave the 100-plus inches of snow that had fallen in Michigan this winter.
Darlene Kraemer of Belleville, Ill., writes:
5,963 miles. That's the distance from the airport in St. Louis, Mo., to Anchorage, Alaska—my anchoring point to explore the western part of the state. No rail-trails in Nome or Barrow, but between those trips I walked the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
Using the Winter 2008 Rails to Trails destination article as my guide, I caught the 7 Bus two blocks from the Spenard Hotel to uptown. After visiting Captain Cook's monument, and with Cook Inlet stretching out to the west, I headed toward Point Worongy. Passing bicyclists and people walking their dogs on a warm, sunny June day, it was easy to tell the tourists from the locals—I still had on a jacket! Picture taking, especially of all the aircraft overhead approaching the airport, kept me from getting all the way to Kincaid Park before having to turn around. Then it was back to catch the 36 Bus, which like all Anchorage buses is equipped with bike racks. Stopping at Earthquake Park was a stark reminder of nature's stern dominance in our 50th state (now Mt. Redoubt is making news). Here the land alongside the trail has been left as it was after the 1963 upheaval. Hard to imagine there were neighborhoods on all that rolling land.
Doug and Joy Sears of Niles, Ohio, write:
The Fall 2007 issue of Rails to Trails magazine inspired a trek of 893 miles from our Niles, Ohio, home to Little Rock, Ark., for the Arkansas River Trail. The Big Dam Bridge was a sight to behold and the place where I slipped on a rock and broke my camera trying to capture its beauty. We had to ride again the next morning, before leaving, so I could get photos of the trail with my new camera.
We then drove 413 miles to St. Charles, Mo., to experience the Katy Trail State Park, our longest ride to date. After relocating to downtown St. Louis, we rode the Mississippi River Trail. We rode our bikes the short distance from our hotel to the Arch and our starting point. Crossing the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge into Illinois was one highlight of our week. During our stay we also visited the Gateway Arch and attended a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.
Soon we were on the road again. Three hundred and five miles later we were in Muncie, Ind., where we enjoyed the Cardinal Greenway. We saw our first "round barn" during this early evening ride. Plans to attend a wedding in Loveland, Ohio (120 miles away), gave us the opportunity to ride the Little Miami Scenic Trail the next afternoon. Sunday found us finally driving home 266 miles, eight days after starting, for a total of 2,142 miles traveled. Altogether, we rode 164 miles in five different states.
Roger Hebbert of Longmont, Colo., writes:
Last summer, after several years of talking about it, my wife Deanna, our friend Mike and I rode the Yockatomac, a 320-mile trek from Georgetown in Washington, D.C., to near Pittsburgh, Pa. The first 180 miles follow the Potomac on the C&O Canal towpath. At Cumberland, Md., where the C&O ends, the trek continues on the Great Allegheny Passage, which crosses the Allegheny Mountains and the Eastern Continental Divide.
To become Trekkers, however, we Coloradans had to cross eastern Colorado then all of Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio and a little corner of West Virginia into Pennsylvania. 1,550 miles of Interstate 70. Without air conditioning. In June. What were we thinking? At Boston's Landing we boarded a shuttle bus that took us to D.C. As we met the other 35 people in our group, two questions most frequently asked us were: "Where are you from?" and then, "You drove to do this?" Colorado offers equally great mountain biking and road biking. We have some of the best cycling in the country. Still, the Trek was well worth the effort. Rough, at times muddy, the trail inspired us with its green canopy and wildlife—snakes, turtles, turkeys, deer, herons, even a bear—as well as side trips into history: Harper's Ferry, Antietam, Fort Frederick, the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, and the Mason-Dixon Line. The mix of scenery and history was just right to make for an enjoyable adventure, and the cross-country car trip reminded us of all the other wonderful places to see.