A Gem of a River Trail in North Carolina

Neuse River Greenway Trail River and Wetlands

Neuse River Greenway Trail
River and Wetlands

We were thinking that there are so many trails to check out and so few weekends before the weather turns too cold. So, why not take advantage of our Empty Nester status and being in North Carolina for the weekend to ride a trail that John had his eye on for awhile? The Neuse River Greenway Trail in Raleigh was worth the trip. We parked at the Neuse River Falls trail head, but there were literally dozens of entrances to this trail. It’s obviously a very popular area. Lots of people were there to tube, canoe, or float down the river, as well as the bike, walk or roller blade. The weather was sunny and warm (93 degrees when we finished, with a heat index of 102). We were grateful that the storms stayed away.

We started our ride by going to the dam area which was only a quarter of a mile or so from our parking spot. There were picnic tables, benches and more parking at this trail head. Plus, there were bathrooms and water fountains. 

The paved, wide trail is in great condition– very clean and obviously very well maintained. The road bike was a great call for this trail. There are a umber of little hills which were actually a nice change of pace from the more flat than not B&A Trail we’d been out on lately.
Neuse River Greenway Trail Trail Curves

Neuse River Greenway Trail
Trail Curves

Scenic views of the river dotted the way and the trees provided shade for much of the ride. There were lots of bridges and plenty of places to stop for a break at cozy spots with benches and/or picnic tables. But, the trail appeared to me to be needlessly curvy. It was the windiest trail we’ve ever ridden.  Like ridiculously curvy. We normally ride rail trails, which don’t seem to have much curve to them. I don’t think that the river caused the curviness, it’s more likely the fact that the greenway goes through wetlands and fields. We didn’t see any interesting wildlife, which is absolutely fine by me. But, I was surprised by this. Usually wetlands are teeming with wildlife. It’s likely that I may have just not noticed because I was constantly negotiating another curve or bridge. We loved how well marked in both distance and trail heads this trail was, which was a nice change of pace.

Neuse River Greenway Trail Curvy!

Neuse River Greenway Trail
Curvy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We rode about 12.5 miles before deciding to take a quick break and turn around to head back to the car. We stopped on a long bridge that crossed the river, which lead me to wonder how many bridges we had crossed. It seemed like quite a few. So, we counted how many bridges we crossed for fun on our way back, giving each bridge a catchy name so we wouldn’t lose count. We counted 23 bridges, the last of which we named “Jordan,” but then I was second guessing our number thinking we’d crossed 24. But, John maintains that we didn’t use “Jack Bauer” for 24, so we couldn’t have crossed it. We didn’t count how many we rode under, which was probably four or five more, nor did we count the covered areas of the trail that looked like bridges but were not. It was a fun trail.

Bridge over Neuse River

Bridge over Neuse River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got back to the car tired and sweaty and with the about four and a half hours left of our drive home, (which ended up taking longer thanks to traffic). We hit the bathrooms to change our clothes before starting back, but not before taking our customary selfie.

Post Ride Selfie!

Post Ride Selfie!

 

 

Tooling Along on our Trail Bikes

The Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

The Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

Heading into this July 4th holiday weekend, we didn’t have much lined up in terms of plans, however we knew we wanted to get out on our bikes again. Our friends, Sue and Sean, were also around. Hurray! Let the planning begin! We looked at the weather and picked Saturday as the best day for our ride. Although we have talked about a number of trail options (and have a long list of places we want to ride), we weren’t set on where to go. We ended up choosing the Michael Castle Trail (in Delaware) and the Ben Cardin Trail (in Maryland), which Sue and Sean had ridden last year.

St. Georges Trail Head, Delaware

St. Georges Trail Head, Delaware

The Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

The Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

We picked the trail head at St. Georges, which had plenty of parking and bathroom facilities. It was very straightforward to find coming from our house, and took about an hour and a half to get there. We were met by the views of the soaring bridges and the beautiful canal right away. After lubbing up with sunscreen, we set off for Maryland and the Ben Cardin Trail. The trail was not super wide, but it was paved and flat. And, while the parking lot was pretty full, the trail itself never felt crowded.

The Canal

The Canal

We were surprised it wasn’t, as it was a lovely day to be out. Everyone we passed was very friendly, which we all noticed. We enjoyed watching the mostly speed boats out on the canal as we tooled along. A couple miles in, we needed to track away from the canal and that’s where we hit a couple of hills. Shortly after that, we were back along the water and heading into a segment of trail that was rocks, gravel, and dirt. Thank goodness Sue had ridden it before and knew it was a definite trail bike trail. A few areas were so rocky, I was sure even the trail bike would have trouble, but it didn’t. Or, rather, I didn’t.

Michael_Castle_Trail_Trail and Canal View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the Many Bridges Along the Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

One of the Many Bridges Along the Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

We arrived in Maryland to literally zero fanfare. No “Welcome to Maryland” or “Delaware Looks Forward to Seeing You Really Soon, When you Return to Get your Car” signs or mileposts marked the change. There was a small sign that noted the end of the Michael Castle Trail, but that was it.

 

 

The trail along the Ben Cardin was also paved and a bit wider and was noteworthy for the benches that periodically dotted the way. There were port-a-potties at the end of trail at Chesapeake City. It was a cute trail head. We stopped and walked around a bit. It was about a 10.5 mile ride from the car.

The Ben Cardin Trail, Chesapeake City, MD Trail Head

The Ben Cardin Trail, Chesapeake City, MD Trail Head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The return ride seemed to go a lot faster, which is always the case. Especially when you rode out the 10 with a headwind. After loading up the bikes, we went into Delaware City. We found a great restaurant, Crabby Dick’s, with nice views of the water and had a delicious lunch. We once again have more of the trail to ride, (and another excuse to come back to this area). The piece going further into Delaware from our St. George’s starting point. We were exceedingly happy with our 21 miles and overall delightful day.

All Smiles After Great Ride!

All Smiles After Great Ride!

Back on our Bikes!

NCR Rail Trail

NCR Rail Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was dreading today. Although dread may be an understatement. John and I had decided to get back out on our bikes. On Sunday. Today. The weather was supposed to be good, so we planned to ride. But where? That was the question and that’s doubtless where most of the dread originated. Our last ride was in my happy place, Spain. Our day long ride on a rail trail through a natural park in Sevilla was a total delight. Here are the details. So, where could we ride that is close to our home, and really nice? At first, we actually couldn’t come up with any place that didn’t have a drawback or two. We were quite mindful that we were out of bike shape, having not ridden since Spain in April. I finally suggested that we go back to the Northern Central Railroad (NCR) Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail. It seemed like it could offer a scenic ride, but I’d have to use my trail bike instead of my road bike. I wasn’t sure how big of a problem that would be, as I felt very out of shape to be riding the heavy bike. But, oh well. It was too nice of a day to not try it. We told ourselves we’d take it easy. If it ended up being a short ride, so be it. The last time I was on this bike was last October on a section of this same trail. Here’s that post.

NCR Rail Trail

NCR Rail Trail

By the time we got in the car to go to our pre-selected trailhead, we were excited to be getting out for a ride. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. We jumped on the trail at White Hall. The trail was mostly shaded and offered delightful scenery for the entire ride. We made it to the Pennsylvania border, but the last few miles of enough of an uphill to notice, nearly did me in. The trail continues on into Pennsylvania, but there was no way we could have added any more miles to our ride today.

Maryland-Pennsylvania Border The Mason Dixon Line NCR Trail

Maryland-Pennsylvania Border The Mason Dixon Line
NCR Trail

But, next time… Thankfully, we were able to take a break and then enjoy some downhill on the return trip, which seemed to go a lot faster than the way out to the border. We rode a total of just under 20 miles and felt good, tired, but happy about the ride.

 

NCR_Trail_Selfie

 

New Bike! New Trail!

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My husband and daughter surprised me with an early birthday present–a new hybrid bike. It hasn’t been very long that we started our biking adventures, and the need to have more trail options than a road bike can handle had become apparent. There are just too many trails that are calling our names, but that would be too dicey to ride on my road bike. So, fatter tires it is.

I wanted to give the bike a test spin, so we took a little 5.5 mile ride in a local office park area. My initial reaction was 5.5 miles on a hybrid made me about as tired as 20+miles on my road bike. John decided my degree of exhaustion was due more to the fact I had had an early morning and eight hour work day, than the fatter tire size. Maybe, but I did notice a difference.

The Restored 1898 Monkton Train Station

The Restored 1898 Monkton Train Station

 

Our first trail with my new bike was the Torrey C. Brown (TCB)/Northern Central Railroad Trail (NCR Trail) from Ashland, Maryland to York, Pennsylvania.  We jumped on the trail at the Ashland Trailhead, which was about a 35 minute drive from our house. It was a chilly – low 50’s, but a sunny and bright fall day. There were lots of walkers, joggers, and bike riders coming and going. We set off and were immediately impressed with the scenic and serene trail vibe. The trail was alternately narrow and wider. The surface alternated between packed gravel (almost paved) to loose gravel; with lots of leaves. I was very glad to not be trying this trail on my road bike. There were several muddy areas that my new bike handled like a charm. As we traveled north, there were fewer people, but it was still a well-used trail. I was freezing. I decided I need earmuffs that fit under my helmet. And gloves that fit over my riding gloves. And, I could have used warmer socks. But, we were delighted by the trail, so we kept pedaling, hoping to warm up.
The trees were not in full autumn glory, but there was some nice tree color. The part of the trail we rode was probably 90% shaded. We entered Gunpowder Falls State Park and spent a good deal of time with the Big Gunpowder Falls in view. It was so nice. Talk about a great way to disconnect from reality. Just nice scenery and no sounds, but those in nature.

Position Light Signals, NCR Trail

Position Light Signals, NCR Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benches and picnic tables dot the trail. There were also some cute scenic points of interest. We stopped a couple times in sunny spots to warm up and enjoy the views. We went about 8.5 miles, just past Monkton, before turning around and heading back. This is another one of those long, beautiful trails that had us planning our next ride before our first one was finished. John was so taken with this ride, it was one of the big reasons he bought me the new bike. I agree with him. It is a great trail. And, it’s close to home. We will be back to try to get to Pennsylvania next.

Sunny Spot along the NCR Trail

Sunny Spot along the NCR Trail

  For our review and more photos of this trail, see my post on my bike trail blog here.

 

A Picture Perfect Day For a Bike Ride

Picture Perfect Day in DC

Picture Perfect Day in DC

Today the Empty Nest vibe was in full force, which is to say that we planned a bike ride and executed said plan. We chose the Capital Crescent Trail, a wonderful Rail Trail, that took us from Bethesda, MD all the way to Washington DC. It was a picture perfect day to ride this beauty of a trail. We did the same ride last Memorial Day weekend, but today was better. I remembered being a lot hotter and sweatier last year. It’s 82 degrees and sunny today. We were not surprised to see lots of people along the trail and enjoying the monuments in DC. Some points along our route were trickier to negotiate on a bike than others, but for the most part, we were able to enjoy the city and monuments and the trail with no problems. This time, the restrooms at Fletcher’s Cove were open and I was happy to find they were air conditioned.

Fletcher's Cove

Fletcher’s Cove

The area was teeming with folks enjoying both the river access part and the canal part of the Cove. We got into DC and the line to rent kayaks, paddle boards and other watercraft was the longest we’d ever seen there. So it looked like the Potomac River was as busy and crowded as the bike trail.

View of Trails at Fletcher's Cove

View of Trails at Fletcher’s Cove

John was commenting about what a great ride it was given the variety of sites and effort level required. We were rather tired by the time we started back to Bethesda, as the ride back is mostly up hill. But it was a great day and a great way to Empty Nest. 

Capturing Two Monuments in DC on Memorial Day

Capturing Two Monuments in DC on Memorial Day

Setbacks along the trail of life and blog

View from Mt. Vernon Trail

 

In June, I was pretty certain that I would have two or three nice, new rail trail or otherwise paved trail bike rides completed by August. Thus continuing my one bike blog post a month since being empty nesters. I actually did a June ride with two friends, Sue and Sara, on the Mt. Vernon trail.

Sara and Sue

 

We drove down to Virginia, loaded ourselves up for an exciting day on a new trail. I took pictures. We were smiling. The trail is beautiful around the water. As we rode it got a little more challenging. Then, as we got closer to Mt. Vernon, there were some killer hills. I thought I was in bike riding shape. John and I had just done a long ride on Sunday (and it was Tuesday).

 

But, I was struggling up the last big hill before the benches and water fountain break spot. I actually fell over and ended up giving up and walking the bike up the last few hundred feet. I was humiliated and devastated. My friends made some gear change suggestions, which I eagerly tried. On our way back, I was exhausted and falling more and more behind. It made no sense that I should be struggling this much. I figured I must have been still fatigued from the long 26 mile ride I had done two days before. Well, upon closer examination we discovered I had a flat rear tire. We made an attempt to change the tire ourselves. But, despite Sue offering me her spare tube, it didn’t go well. I was so unprepared for a flat tire. So, after 16 miles, I was done. My friends rode the remaining seven miles back to the car and drove back to pick me and my bike, which was in several pieces, up. Needless to say, I was very unhappy. In tears upon arriving home unhappy. My ride, my pride, my new, cute Athleta shirt, all in ruins. I couldn’t even write about it. It was too awful.

 

So, I got the bike tire repaired that night, but I didn’t get back in the saddle until last week. We decided we may as well try to get back into our cycling hobby, since we have a semi empty nest with our oldest home and working full time and our youngest back at school. I was not looking forward to it at all. But, I thought the B & A Trail, which is mostly flat, would be a good place to start over. Three miles into our ride, I heard the familiar sound of a rear flat tire. We couldn’t believe it. It was supposed to be fixed.

There I was again. Sitting alone with my bike, waiting to be picked up. Not good. This time, I had a more knowledgable bike guy fix it. He recommended a new, higher quality tire, which I gladly agreed to.

 

Which takes me to today. They say, “Third time’s a charm.” After back to back disappointment with bike rides – two flat tires in a row, we were ready for a good outing. We once again set off along the B&A Trail. It was a hot, sunny day. There were nice stretches of shade along the way. We made it to the top of the trail, got off our bikes and stretched and hydrated. We had never gone beyond this point because we had heard that the trail had somewhat steep hills and went along a busy highway (which it does). I asked John if he wanted to go a little further to see what it was like. A guy taking a break on the bench next to us told us about a river view at the Maryland WWII Memorial just two miles further. Hummmm. Energized by our curiosity, we decided to try it. It wasn’t bad on our way to the memorial, but I was sure I wasn’t going to make it back. But, I’d deal with that on our return trip.

We made it! The memorial was beautiful. The views of Annapolis and the river were pretty. We were glad we went the extra two miles.
The way back to the trail was not hard at all, just a little work, but it was getting hotter. I definitely felt out of bike-shape. With about a mile and a half to go, I just fell so far behind John, it was ridiculous. I was pedaling my legs off and going nowhere fast. Well, we made it back to the car, loaded it up, got the AC cranked up, and headed home. It was an 18 mile ride. We chatted briefly about why I was so tired and couldn’t keep up, but I was glad to have finished a ride. Time to plan the next one!

As we were unloading the car, I hear John say, “No Way!” I walk over and there he is looking at my FLAT front tire! Noooooo. So much for third time’s a charm.

But, it explained a lot.

 

Sunday Rail Trail Ride in Western Maryland

 

Well, the Empty Nesters were at it again! We had wanted to do the second half of the Western Maryland Rail Trail this summer, so we took advantage of the kids being away visiting college friends this weekend to do it.

The weather was perfect — mid 70's and sunny. We jumped onto the trail in Hancock, MD at one of the trail parking lots. The lot was probably a half mile before the spot we turned around the first time we rode the first half of the trail. This Rail Trail trail is paved and flat, so think non-stop pedaling.

There were not many people on the trail at all today. The last ride we took on this trail (from Big Pool to Hancock) was on a week day and there weren't many folks on it then. So, I expected more weekend warriors on the trail, but, alas it was mostly couples probably more just a hair older than us. But, overall, around our age. The trail was peaceful and only the sound of nature could be heard. It was beautiful. It was completely wooded. While we could hear the traffic and see glimpses of route 70 on the first leg, this part of the trail was nothing but nature. I was on the lookout for black bears the whole time. They are found in great numbers (or at least high-ish numbers) in this area.

I never saw one. I guess I should be happy about that. But, we did enjoy the scenic views with tree-covered mountains in the background. We made it to the end of the trail from Hancock in about and hour and 15 minutes. So, round trip took us 2 ½ hours. We stopped and took water and stretch breaks, but by the end we were both ready to be done. I posted a 25.42 mile ride on my Map My Run mobile phone app. Yowza. That was a longer ride than I thought we'd do, but we Empty Nesters are tough. And when the going gets tough, we get really quiet and our focus intense as we try to get back to the car before we fall over (which we managed to do!).