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.

 

Very Empty Nesty of Us, Again

This is an amazing photo of the Big Dipper Taken by John Kozlowski, August 12, 2015

This is an amazing photo of the Big Dipper Taken by John Kozlowski, August 12, 2015

Sometimes you just have to step out of your comfort zone and say, “What the heck.” Or, in our case, “Who needs sleep?” For years, many of them, I have wanted to see actual shooting stars during a Perseid Meteor Shower. I thought I had a great opportunity two years in a row when we vacationed at a dude ranch in the Adirondacks. But, despite the comfortable lounge chairs and the uber dark setting, we weren’t able to see any either of those weeks. Zero shooting stars. Last night’s meteor shower was getting the pre-event hype of a World Cup soccer match. At least according to my Twitter feed. So, since we are still working to regain our top Empty Nester form, we made an impromptu decision to have a date night under the stars in hopes of finally seeing the elusive shooting stars. Clearly, we are on a empty nester roll!


At 10:00 PM, I had packed a bag of water, snacks, a sweatshirt, and bug spray. The chairs and blankets were already in the car. And, we were heading off to the Howard County Conservancy, which was having a Perseid Meteor Shower viewing party. We found a spot among a large group of folks that we couldn’t really see, in a field that we couldn’t see. It was very dark, except for the cars streaming in and out of the grounds. I was really excited. It seemed like a great night for some meteors!  And it was. We saw our first shooting star within 10 minutes of sitting down. It appeared to us almost in slow motion and took its time sailing across the sky. We were both shocked that we saw it so easily. Then, we missed a couple, as evidenced by the oh’s and ah’s from the folks who were looking in the right place at the right time. After waiting minutes on end without seeing any, we became a little frustrated at the sporadic nature of these buggers. It’s definitely not as easy as sitting in a crowd for a fireworks display, where most people are unlikely to miss any of the pyrotechnics. Especially, because of the telltale “whump” sound that gives you a second to look up. There is no warning “whump” with these meteors. You’re either looking in the right place or not. We did manage to catch a couple more and a couple that may or may not have been ones.

Actual Fireworks That are Easy to See and Photograph

Actual Fireworks That are Easy to See and Photograph

The wisps of light flitting fleetingly through the night are a joy to witness and, frankly,  annoying to miss. Our need to be able to function today prevented us from staying too late, but we had a great time staring off into the beautiful night sky. We appreciate the Howard County Conservancy for hosting this event! It was a great date night and very Empty Nesty of us.

 

 

@HoCoBlogs

 

Gooooooallllll Achieved!

The Swim For Life Swim, Chester River July 2014
 

Several Summers ago, at the urging of a U.S. Masters Swimming teammate of mine, I entered my first Open Water (OW) competition. It was a one mile U.S. Masters sanctioned swim in a lake, called Centennial Lake. It is a very pretty lake, on the small side, but surrounded by woods with paths and picnic areas. It contains wildlife. I did not want to swim in any body of water containing wildlife. My friend was insistent that this was indeed something I would love to do and should be doing. It had my name on it, according to Maureen. Several other teammates of mine were also planning to compete in this local event. So, I signed up. I immediately felt a wave a nausea and fear ripple through me. I tried to counter the nausea and fear by reminding myself that I had been swimming with my Masters group for a long time and could easily swim a mile. Heck, I was swimming close to two miles at practice at least three days a week as it was. But, my nausea and fear were not rooted in concern about the distance. No, my nausea and fear were all about what was living or slithering over and through the lake in which I'd be swimming. I was, at this point in my swimming life, practically surrounded by triathletes and other swimmers who spent more time competing in strange bodies of water than in pools. I silently prided myself on being “a true (Masters) swimmer,” – the dying breed of pool-only swimmers, thank you very much. But, I was curious as to why Maureen thought I would love OW swimming. What did she know that I did not?

Fast forward to the morning of the event. I was sure I was going to be sick. I wasn't. I turned off my brain and willed myself through an out of body experience, in which I just followed my friends into the brownish-green water of Centennial Lake to warm up. It was my turn to swim and I got in and swam. My legs and feet cramped up as the adrenaline shot through me like a brush fire on a dry day. I kicked and squirmed and tried to relieve the charley horses that riddled my lower body. I fought to calm my breathing, but I had lost sight of Maureen and was struggling. I finally managed to collect myself. I strained to see big orange buoys at far away-seeming intervals. I swam yards off course by sighting what I thought was the correct next buoy, only to have to get myself back on track when I noticed the pack of yellow-capped heads moving in a mob off to my right. Not too far away, but far enough. I tried sprinting to catch up to them. It seemed to take forever to get to the buoy marking the return trip. I kept swimming, and soon I got to the final buoy. I was swimming in to the finish with another gal. I had her beat. I was going to beat someone no matter what else happened. I saw the edge and tried to stand up. But, I was not close enough and there was no bottom to stand on. I came to a full stop. I urgently began to swim again only to find my self getting to the actual edge seconds after the other gal. It was a rookie mistake. My first time in open water and I blew the finish. It was a painful lesson made more so when I placed second in my age group. I don't l know for sure that the gal who finished just before me was first, but it didn't matter. This experience left me with unfinished business. I had succeeded beyond my wildest dreams to just get in this lake and finish the race. In fact, I wasn't “racing.” I was “participating in an event.” That is, until I finished second. Maureen and I were planning another OW swim, but a hurricane left us fulfilling our charity swim in the famed 50 meter outdoor pool at the Meadowbrook Swim Club. I was very happy to swim there, but obviously unable to put into practice my lessons learned from my first OW experience.

Sometime leading up to this Summer, I decided that I wanted and needed to swim a 2 mile OW event. I had to do it. I'm not sure why, but I felt compelled. There were many things interfering with my short list of possible 2 mile swim opportunities. I began to feel discouraged and depressed that it might not happen after all. But, my husband offered to drive me to a charity race called Swim For Life being held on the Chester River, about an hour and a half away. So, I signed up. My goals were to put all of my lessons learned from my previous OW swim into action, and to swim the best race I could. And, yesterday I did just that. Armed with prescription goggles so I could see which buoys to swim to and all the other tidbits I learned from my first effort, I swam my best. I felt strong the whole time, despite swimming against a current the mile out and some choppiness in the water on the return leg. I paced out and from the final buoy tried to sprint to the finish. I was tired at the end of the race and felt I achieved my goals. Will I have another OW swim in me? It's possible. But, for now, I'm going to enjoy the post-race sense of accomplishment. Maureen has moved to Florida, but I know she would very happy for me and thrilled to know I'm still dabbling in open water swimming.

The 2 Mile Swim Wave

And we're off!

 

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!).