Mary Ellen Kelly and Paul Miethner on "their" bridge along the North County Trailway
in New York.
Dave Gelwicks and company on
the C&O Canal towpath.
Jenifer Nadeau in the Hop River State Park Trail tunnel where she helped get lights repaired.
More Trail Tales
For the Fall 2011 issue of Rails to Trails, we asked our readers: What do you consider your proudest rail-trail feat?
Mary Ellen Kelly of Mt. Kisco, N.Y., writes:
I parked my car and headed to "my" bridge on the North County Trailway in Westchester County, N.Y. As I locked the door, I saw a man who resembled someone from an online dating site, heading north on his bike. "Okay, Mom," I said to my departed mother, who always wanted me to "find" someone, "if I ever see him on the bridge, I will say something."
Seconds later, he sailed by again, this time heading south. I rounded the bend and there he was, on the bridge.
"Now what," I thought as I neared. "He probably isn't the guy from the website." We had never actually exchanged words online, just one "wink" two weeks earlier. But I considered the promise I made to my mother and approached him.
"Is that a recumbent bike?" I asked; an equipment question seemed safe.
He smiled and told me about his bike. I kept wondering if this was "Newksboy" from the website. Eventually I got up the nerve.
"Are you Newks?" I mumbled, quietly enough to be disregarded. He stared. I knew he was trying to find a way to end the conversation. But then he said, "You're 2 Cups of Coffee, right?" The moment was surreal.
"How could you know?" I stammered. "I didn't post a picture!"
"I don't know how I know. But I know!" he said, laughing.
Since that day three years ago, we have been inseparable, logging 4,200 miles on 25 trails. The plan is to ride into the sunset with as many miles and trails under our tires as possible.
Beth Gardner of Fayetteville, W.Va., writes:
As someone who loves exercise in the great outdoors, I spent many years trying to find safe places to bike and run. I had the opportunity to attend several Rails-to-Trails Conservancy conferences and was jealous of the beautiful trail projects that many communities had. One of my favorite rides during these conferences was the East Bay Bike Path in Providence, R.I. It is a beautifully scenic ride that hugs Narragansett Bay.
I wanted to establish a trail in my hometown in Oak Hill, W.Va. With technical help from Peggy Pings of the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Program, and sponsorships from the county and city governments, I was able to write a grant for acquisition of a 7.5- mile unused rail corridor and then follow-up grants for paving and trailhead development. In June 2008 a ribbon cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the new White Oak Rail Trail. It is a perfect greenspace area and a great connector to schools and recreational facilities. But as I watched the paving equipment move into the area to start the paving work, I worried, "What if nobody uses this trail?"
Almost before the paving was dry, I was ecstatic to see lots of walkers and bikers on the trail. I love riding and walking on the pathway and seeing friends and neighbors there. It has had a great social impact on the area. Three years later, it still gives me a thrill to see so many people enjoying it.
Jenifer Nadeau of Andover, Conn., writes:
My proudest rail-trail feat was noticing that there was only one light on in the Hop River State Park Trail tunnel this winter—and doing something about it. It was very dark in there, and I felt that it created a safety hazard for horseback riders, cyclists and hikers. So, I found out who was in charge of the trail and notified them via a phone call and e-mail about the issue. I was so happy that just this week when we hiked on the trail with our dogs Goldie, we noticed that all of the lights in the tunnel were on again and shining even brighter than ever!
We are so lucky to live where we do in Connecticut. We get to walk around our lake about three miles in the morning, and in the afternoon we drive about five minutes to hike on "our" section of rail-trail in Andover. Rail-trails are a real gem, it is great to be able to walk our dogs and not worry about traffic. My goal is to someday hike all of the rail-trails in our area.
Larry Hedgepeth of Canmer, Ky., writes:
In 1993, after having back surgery and being a smoker for 25 years, I decided it was time to get fit. I looked at several options, and biking seemed the way to go. My wife and I started on singles and soon tried our hand at riding a tandem; it was love at first ride. We didn't know what rail-trails were until we ran across the Tunnel Hill State Trail in Illinois. Since then, we have ridden thousands of rail-trail miles.
Being on the back side of 55, I really wanted to complete one item on my bucket list: ride 100 miles in a day even though I still had back problems. My wife and I rode charity rides from 30 to 50 miles to build up endurance, while at the same time trying new rail-trails every year. Soon, we decided the rail-trail system was a great way to see the country and get fit at the same time.
In September 2010, with my back getting worse, we decided it was now or never. With the help of friends and family—a caravan of three tandems—we traveled to Ohio to accomplish my century-ride dream on the Little Miami Scenic Trail. Drafting off each other, our tandems made excellent time.
A few months later in February, I had my spine fused. The doctors and nursessaid that my biking had built my back up enough that I aced the procedure—and I'm already looking forward to being back on my tandem this summer. There isn't a better physical therapy in the world than taking family and friends on a rail-trail to recuperate.
Nick Ogle of Knoxville, Tenn., writes:
During my 52nd year of life, I began bicycling for recreation and health. I was soon transported back 40 years to the days of riding local trails on my Huffy Banana bike.
After joining Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, my first issue of the magazine was Winter 2010 with the featured article on Nevada's Historic Railroad Hiking Trail. My 54th birthday present to myself was to ride that trail.
The pictures in the article had prepared me for the awesome splendor of the rail-trail along panoramic Lake Mead, and the ride was an unforgettable spiritual experience. The seven-mile mile descent to Hover Dam was exhilarating, but the return incline of greater than 1,100 feet proved to be a personal challenge.
The Specialized Hardrock trail bike I had rented from All Mountain Cycles was more than 24 pounds heavier than my 16-pound Trek 7.5 Urban Hybrid! More than once during the climb back to Boulder City, I had to replay the conversation with the bike shop clerk. When told I could call the store if I needed to be picked up for the return trip, I replied that I had not come all the way from Tennessee to ride a trail and end up being escorted back on the back of a truck.
The trail was conquered, my spirit was renewed, and I have decided to include a rail-trail ride as a birthday tradition.
Dave Gelwicks of Butler, Pa., writes:
My proudest rail-trail feat was taking a dream and an idea and making it happen. I thought for a year about riding the 300 miles from Pittsburgh to Georgetown along the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal towpath. I had zero experience at such an endeavor and had been biking less than 10 years, but I decided to go for it!
The main riders would be my brother-in-law, a work colleague and my best friend who started me biking 10 years ago. Two wives were willing to support the group effort and to join us on the path when time allowed. Lodging was arranged through many different venues and resources now available to a novice like me.
Packing and a farewell dinner took place in our Pennsylvania home, and two rules of the trip were discussed. First, we were to go at whatever pace we desired for the day, and secondly, if you wanted to stop for sightseeing, a break, food or whatever the reason, we would all ride together. The weather cooperated and the scenery will not be forgotten.
The sense of accomplishment, the memories and the friendships forged together in our hearts and minds forever were what dreams are made of! Now I challenge you to put your dreams into action along the rail-trail of your choice.
Gillian Rose of Guilford, Conn., writes:
Our son always loved bicycling, and he inspired me to keep bicycling as I get older. So my proudest rail-trail feats (I can't decide between two) were bicycle camping trips carrying all our own camping gear and food in 2001 and 2010, when I was 71 and 80, respectively.
The 2001 ride with three generations—myself (Granny), our son and two grandsons, ages 13 and 9, on La Route Verte, the rail-trail from Edmonton, New Brunswick, to Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec and back. It's a lovely trail with many interesting places to see and things to do. I was as proud of our youngest grandson bicycling 65 miles one day when we missed our campground and continued, and myself also at 71.
The 2010 ride was two days on the newly opened Down East Sunrise Trail in Maine with our son (the grandsons had jobs), a beautiful trail mostly through wilderness, past rivers and wetlands with lots of animals and birds, even endangered turtles. We camped at Cobscook State Park. The second day we rode 57 miles to the northern end of the trail at Ayers Junction and back to Whitneyville, our starting point, carrying all our gear on the gravel trail—although packs got lighter along the way as we ate all our remaining food! At 80, I did okay!
The varied rail-trails are perfect for people with children an inspiration for old folks. Plans this year include the southern section of Maine's Down East Sunrise Trail!
Gail Schlichtkrull of Wexford, Pa., writes:
I have been biking since I was a child and have continued to do so as an adult. I usually only biked short rides of 10 miles or less. About 10 years ago, I heard of the C&O Canal towpath that connects Cumberland, Md., to Washington, D.C. My brother Ken worked itn eh area and often talked about how he loved to bike the towpath after he was finished with work.
After hearing about the trail, I could not rest until I biked the towpath myself. So, that summer my brother and I set off on the trail. We left my house near Pittsburgh at midnight and arrived in Cumberland at 3:30 a.m. We were on the trail by 4:30 in the morning, riding in the dark with flashlights taped to our handlebars. During the next three days we biked 70 or more miles a day; I thought several times we must be crazy.
It was the hardest thing I've done, but reaching the 0 mile marker in Georgetown was a "Rocky" moment for me. I really felt like Rocky Balboa did after climbing all those stairs.
Shortly after, I heard about the Great Allegheny Passage, and I planned to ride from Pittsburgh to Cumberland. My next goal was now set, but the only problem was the trail was not yet complete. We had to wait seven long years until several sections of the trail were finished, including the Big Savage Tunnel.
Our trip started with my sister-in-law driving my brother, my husband and me to Boston, Pa. The next seven days, we biked a total of 385 miles to Washington, D.C. The trip was the most physically demanding ride I have ever completed, but at age 56 I was proud of myself for accomplishing my goal.
I'm very thankful for the many people who make rail-trails possible. Without them, I would not have so many great biking memories.
Chris Johnson of Marion, Ohio, writes:
When I met my husband Bob in May 1998, I was smitten with him and his 1986 Gold Wing motorcycle. We loved riding and camping from a utility trailer we towed. We married in 2001 and continued to enjoy riding and camping. In the fall of 2007 we purchased a pop-up camper, and in the spring of 2008 a pickup truck and two bicycles. Now we could include our six grandkids and their bikes on camping adventures.
Bob and I so enjoyed riding our bicycles that we rode as often as possible on the back roads near our home. We always had to find ice cream when we were out on the Gold Wing. Now we find ourselves pedaling for ice cream.
Then I purchased a book with Ohio bike trails, and we were off checking out several trails within one or two hours from home. We are loving the rail-trail experience. As we spent more time on our bicycles, we were spending less time on the Gold Wing. Last year I was only on the Gold Wing twice! I suggested to Bob that we could renovate the utility trailer to haul the bicycles so we could enjoy the best of both worlds—traveling by bike trails on the Gold Wing, bicycles in tow. He agreed. So his late winter, early spring project has been doing just that. We kept in biking shape over the winter on a stationary spinner. We are anxiously awaiting biking weather so we can hit the rode and trails again.
P.S. The frame around our trail plate reads:
2X THE PLEASURE
Daniel Peters of Independence, Ohio, writes:
Running your first marathon requires not only arduous training but also mental single-mindedness. But there can be distractions that are helpful to finishing the race successfully.
I had been a competitive runner for 15 years but had not attempted a marathon. When I heard about plans for one on Ohio's newly opened Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in 1992, I wanted to be a part of it. This beautiful path runs through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Since it is near my house, I had been able to train there often.
Two weeks before the marathon, I traveled with a group of runners to an out-of-town five-miler. One member of the group was a girl who was new to running and seemed interested in running a marathon some day. After the race she proposed that she would meet me on the course and run the last mile of the Towpath Marathon with me. Two weeks later, the weather did not cooperate, and we started the marathon with a mix of snow and rain. I seriously doubted she would be there for the last mile, but I knew I had to make it just in case. As I was approaching the last mile, she jumped from the crowd and ran alongside me to the finish. We started training together after that for the following year's race. Shortly thereafter, we were married and continue to run together on the wonderful Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.