Monday, October 14, 2019

Gettysburg



So I'm working on another book. This one is about biking around Gettysburg mostly around the battlefields. Like most books I write this wasn't exactly my idea. I got a note from my publisher that they were looking for someone to write a book of short rides around the Gettysburg battlefield. Writing a book is a lot of work and takes a lot of time. I thought about not doing it and if was any place else but Gettysburg I probably would have. However for the past 10 years I have been going out to Gettysburg to ride with the Philadelphia bike club so it is one of the few places out side of my normal riding areas that I know really well. Beside I do enjoy the process of researching and writing guide books and it will be cool to be the official bike book of Gettysburg.

This book will be a short book of around 15 or so rides of 5 to 10 miles. This is mainly aimed at families and casual bikers who want to tour Gettysburg on bike. It didn't take long for me to put together the rides for this book from all my riding in this area. However I still had some questions about which was the best way to get around some parts of the battlefield and where are the best place to park so this weekend I headed out to the Gettysburg to do some research. Luckily I got Jim and his wife to join me.

The plan for the weekend was to do a bunch of the rides from the book. I created a few routes that were a combination of most of the rides in the book. This would allow me to refine the details of the rides in the book as well as gather some pictures.

On Friday I went out in the morning and checked out Hanover Junction. It has a train station that was restored to the way it was during the civil war and was one of the places Lincoln stopped on his way to giving the Gettysburg address.


This train station is where you can park to ride Heritage rail trail which is a 40 mile trail which is one of the rides in the book. Besides the train station they also have some bike art.

I also spent some time in New Oxford checking out some roads and a bakery that will be part of the rides in the book that will be outside of the battlefield.

On Saturday with Jim and Regina in tow it was time to tour the battlefield. I had a 24 mile ride mapped out based on rides I had done before. If you haven't been to the Gettysburg battlefield before it is both impressive and overwhelming. The main battlefield is over 6000 acres and there are over 1300 monuments of every possible shape and size. From simple historic markers to 3 story monuments that take up a city block.



Gettysburg was a complex battle with lots of stories of heroism and self sacrifice. It would take years of study to understand everything that happen during the three day battle. One thing that is obvious as you ride around is that there was a lot of death, suffering and sadness. But once you get past that you can see some signs of hope. Most of the monuments on the battlefield were put there by veterans of the battle. There were many reunions of both union and confederate soldiers at Gettysburg and even though they fought each other they did come to respect each other as evidence by the Eternal Light Peace Memorial which was build by by all the veterans to honor their sacrifice.

Even today there are people who volunteer to relieve what these soldiers experiences.



I asked them why they do it. They said it was to honor all the veterans and keep their stories alive.  I guess it kind of like a living archeologist. It's also a hobby for most of them and a reason to get together with like minded people.

The 24 mile ride around the battlefield took quite a while because of stopping for pictures and a few wrong turns trying to find the best way around certain parts of the park. We did end up going the wrong way up a few roads but that's nothing unusual for my rides.

After touring the battlefield Jim and I did a quick 10 mile ride just outside the battlefield to the Sachs covered bridge.



This bridge was one of the main bridges used by the confederate army to retreat from the battle field. There are also rumors that some confederate spies where hung on this bridge so it is part of the Gettysburg ghost tour.

Saturday was a long day but I got all the information I needed for the rides around the battlefield so it was a successful day.

On Saturday night we tried to got to a historic restaurant but the wait was too long so we ended up at an Irish pub which actually ended up having some good food.

On Sunday the ride was on the east of Gettysburg. The book will have four to five short 8-10 mile rides in the farmland to the east of Gettysburg for riders who want to do more than ride around the battlefield. There are a lot of great roads around here so there is no shortage of traffic free horse farms and open fields to ride through.



It was a little cold but still a beautiful day. We did a 34 mile loop of roads I mostly did before. With Regina along I did get confirmation that these roads were enjoyable for a more causal rider.

It was a fun weekend and I did enjoy spending some time with Jim and Regina. I now have most of the information I need to write the book. Even thought the book isn't due until next September I will probably have most of it done by the end of the winter. I plan one more trip out to Gettysburg in late spring to do a final test of the routes and get some more pictures. I don't really mind coming back to Gettysburg because it really is a great place to ride.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sunny Sandy Hook



When it is 44 degrees on a Saturday morning you usually don't think its a good day to go to the beach but it was. I had wanted to do a ride to Sandy Hook some time after Labor Day but wasn't able to do until this Saturday. It was colder than expected but it was sunny and suppose to get to the mid 60s. Laura, Pete, Jim and Ricky joined me at Monmouth Battlefield park for the ride.

I decided to use my northern route to Sandy Hook with a small modification. Although there are a couple nice roads on the way to Sandy Hook there are also some busy roads we have to ride on so its more about getting to Sandy Hook than about the ride itself. There are some interesting sites along the way. We went through the old Bell Labs which has a water tower that is suppose to look like a transistor but I'm and electrical engineer and it doesn't look like any transistor I've every seen.



There was also sign with a scary drunk clown on it. I didn't get a picture of it but Laura did so it will probably be part of her post. The new twist to today's route is that we took the Henry Hudson trail for a mile after the rest stop then headed down to water where the ferry is to NY and rode along the bay. It was an unusually clear and sunny day so we had the best view of NY I have ever seen on this ride.



The path along the bay also gave us nice views of the marina and Sandy Hook itself. The path does turn to dirt for about a mile but it is very hard packed and easy to ride on a road bike. In fact it was smoother than parts of the paved trail.

When we got to Sandy Hook we road out a few miles to take some more pictures. I actually took my shoes off and walked on the beach for a bit to get some more views of NY.



After I got the sand off my feel we headed back home along the usual way with a brief stop in Little Silver for our final rest stop. On our way back to the battlefield there was even more traffic than normal as there was some kind of festival at the battlefield orchard. There were cars parked in every field and grass surface so we had to slowly make our way up the shoulder and around cars and people.

We ended up with 65 miles. This will probably be the end of beach season so any more trips to the beach will probably have to wait until next year.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Hay Cow



It is now officially fall and the days are starting to get shorter and a colder. Soon we will be riding in arm warmers and jackets. Today however was closer to a summer day. Laura had listed a ride to Oldwick which is one of the few places we haven't gone this year. Bob, Ricky, Jim and Blake also showed up for the ride.

Laura had not posed the route but I had a general idea where we were going. Laura had said she was going to be stopping for pictures during this ride and it didn't take long to get to the first picture stop. One of the farms had taken some hay bails and painted them like pigs and cows.

We also made a quick stop at Solsberg airport although we didn't see any airplanes taking off.

We eventually made our way to Rockaway Rd and one of my favorite climbs. We are still a few weeks from peak color so most of the trees are still green even though some leaves are already falling because it has been so dry from lack of rain. From the top of Rockaway we work our way over to Fox Hill and a fun downhill with a good view of the valley that we always stop for.



Its was a little hazy be we could still see over to the next ridge.

Our rest stop today was the Oldwick general store which was not as crowded as it usually is. In fact we were to only bikers there for once.

By the time we left to head back it was actually feeling more summer like. We cruised through a lot of scenic rural back roads and saw a lot of deer lurking along the roads. It almost felt like they were following us. 

We ended up with just over 51 miles. Even though we had done some climbing it was a very relaxed and enjoyable ride. It was one of the better routes we did this year and one we should do more often.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

An Entertaineing Ride



After doing hilly rides for the past two weeks it was time to do something flatter. I didn't feel like going to the pinelands or toward the shore so decided to just head south of New Egypt. The ride started from MCP so it was close enough to ride in. I was joined by Jim, Martin, Ken, Laurie and Laura. This was planned as a low key ride on familiar roads.

We headed out across Rt 130 and towards the Assinpink where we meet a pack of hound dogs walking down road presumably heading out to a fox hunt?  It was then on to Rue Rd and past some donkeys and alpacas. The last set of animals we saw was a herd of long horn steers south of New Egypt. It was more wild life than we normally see.



It did however smell really bad by the long horns.

We stopped at Charleston Coffee at the intersection of 528 and 539 and a preferred stop when we are in this area. They have good coffee and a decent selection of baked goods to eat and if don't like the selection there a bagel shop next store. Today there was even a guitar player singing at the shop so we had entertainment while we ate.

A couple months ago when Laura lead a ride in this area she tried to get from the top of Hawkins Rd to Charleston Coffee but ran into some dirt roads. Today I decided to try to see if I could find a way to do it. I look at google maps and checked out the satellite image and found a way to zig zag through some developments to get through. I wasn't 100% we won't run into some dirt but wanted to give it a try. Not only did we not run into any dirt roads but it actually turned out to kinda scenic.

It was then back to more familiar roads for the last 15 miles back. The only hitch on the way back was that Laura got her chain jammed in her front chain ring. Her front derailleur had not been working since just after the beginning of the ride. Then she thought it working and tried to shift only to have it jam.

It took a few minutes to release the jam and then we road the last few miles back.

Although this was suppose to be an easy boring ride it ended up being more interesting and entertaining than expected.     

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Lying Bastard 2019


I'm not sure why I do my lying bastard ride each year as it always leads to my posse abusing my character (not that they don't do that on my other rides). This ride annoys them and they complain more about this ride than the other hilly rides I do even though on paper its not the hardest ride I do.

This year I did not get much of a turnout for the ride. In fact I thought it was going to be the lonely bastard ride as nobody signed up for the ride until late Friday. It ended up just being me, Jack and Pete who just got back from his vacation up state. Laura, the traitor that she is, decided to do Neils longer but flatter ride.

It was a perfect day for a ride. It was just 60 degrees when we started but sunny enough not to need arm warmers. We crossed the bridge into PA and had a couple of miles on river road before the climbing started. Its a six mile climb to get to the top the ridge. It a gentle climb with a few steep bumps here and there but actually a relatively easy climb as shown HERE in the route we did.

Once we got to the ridge we ended up on some traffic free roads with good views of the valley below. For some reason on the PA side the roads on the ridge are more lumpy and bumpy than on the NJ side. I think that one of the things that makes this ride seem harder. Even when you are cruising along the ridge there are a lot of short 5-6% climbs so you can't really relax.

There is not a lot of civilization by Lake Nockamixion so its hard to find a place to take a break. We usually stop in Perkasie and then again at a Turkey Hill on 412. Since Jack and Pete don't mind doing a break later in the ride we skipped going into Perkasie.

Although the route I do for this ride is mostly the same I do tweak it a little every year. This year I changed it so we won't have to cross Rt 313 which is hard to do since it always has a lot of traffic. This actually meant going down by the lake on the south west side which I haven't been before. There is a boat launch on that side where we stopped for a look at the lake.

From there we followed the usual route around the back roads on the north side of the lake. This area is a little strange as it has some "healing centers" and a Greek temple. It was more quiet roads with just enough hills to make us keep working. There were also a few roads that were rocked like last week.

Eventually we made our way to the stop at the Turkey Hill and then headed back to the start which is mostly downhill. I got a flat just after the break when I ran over some sharp rocks in the road.

The last feature of this ride is the descent down what I call the Red Circle of Death (Red Cliff Rd). Its a road that starts off really steep and so the first few hundred feet can be a little dangerous if you aren't careful. What made this even harder this year was that after seeing no cars on the roads we were riding there were two cars at the top of this hill that we had to get around as it started. We managed to make it all down safely and then cruised along the river back to Frenchtown.

The ride ended up being about 2900 ft of climbing and didn't feel as hard as it normally did. Maybe that is because of the weather or because for some reason I didn't get abused as much on this ride as previous years. We'll see what happens next year. 


Thursday, August 29, 2019

GAP Trail Afterwords




I'm home now and thinking about all we did over the past four days. We packed a lot in this trip and I'm glad I took an extra day off work to recover. The trip was better and different than I expected. The trail was as nice and scenic as advertised what surprised me was all the sights around and outside the trail. This trail is through some of the more depressed area's of Pennsylvania. The lost of the steel and coal industry that sustained this area for over 100 years is still very much affecting this area. The amount of abandon and rotting plants and empty fields is epic. On the first day of ride besides all the empty factories we saw a lot of coal and coke ash around the trail as well as a lot of run down and abandon houses. However even with all the issues this area has, the people were really friendly. Some of the rest stops along the way had volunteer greeters that would answer any question about the trail like how far to the next stop or the best place to find food. Then there was the work that the people in these town mush have to do to keep this trail in shape. I mean the surface was PERFECT. There were no holes, ruts, soft spots or even debris on the trail. A road bike with wide tires won't have a problem with any part of this trail.

Then there were the bathrooms which were always clean even the port-o-johns. There was one that Jack stepped into and the bottom broke but is was clean and I'm sure it has been replace by now. There were also a lot of displays and small museums along the way that were worth stopping for. That made the ride take longer but also broke it up and made it more interesting.



There is also art scattered around the trail. It usually has some pieces of bike in the art. It was impressive to me that as depressed as this area is that they still have energy, ingenuity and funds to not only maintain this trail but make it one of the best in the country.

This trail mostly follows the rivers in this area and unlike the Lehigh Valley trail you almost always had a good view of the river.



One of the coolest parts of doing this trail was going over all the bridges and through the tunnels. I lost count of how many train bridges we went over. It have to be in the 15 to 20 range. They were all pretty high and had good views of the valley and rivers below



However the tunnels were even better than the bridges. I don't think there is anywhere else where you are going to go through tunnels this long. On the way home we actually stopped off at the Paw Paw tunnel which is on the C&O trail. This is the continuation of from the end GAP trail that goes along the canal from Cumberland all the way to Washington DC.



The tunnel is a kilometer long. We drove to the campground near the tunnel and ended up doing a 3 mile hike to and through the tunnel. At a kilometer long it gets pretty dark when you get to the middle.



You definitely need a flashlight to make your way through. The picture above it what it looked like when I turned my flashlight off.

One thing that did make this trip more difficult to plan was that we road point to point and would always end up 30 to 50 miles from where we parked our car in the morning. I worked out the logistics before hand so that we would always have a car at the end to go pick up the one we drove to the start. This took a lot of thought because we had to get 4 bikes and 4 people in one car to either get to the starting point or back from the ending point. Luckily Jack's van can hold a lot of bikes and people. It also helped that Bob had a roof rack that can fit any car. This meant  that I we could put his roof rack on my Baja and get 3 bikes in the back and one on the roof and 4 people in the car. Although we made some minor tweaks to my original logistics plan it ended up not being too much a pain in the ass to go back and get the car we left at that start. I would always try to get dinner or see some sight like Bike Heaven along the way. The only thing issue was the extra time each day it took to drive back to the starting point after the ride which made the day longer. This added about an hour or more to the stuff we had to do each day.

Like any bike trip it is always best as a shared experience. Jack and Dorthy are platinum members of my travel club and are always fun to travel with. In fact the reason that we did this trip was because of a conversation we had during the Philly club bike trip to Gettysburg. Jack was asking a couple what is the best bike trip they ever did and they told us about the GAP trail and the idea stuck and now we did it. Bob also fit in well and is now an honorary member of the insane  bike posse.

The last thing that this trip showed me was that there are a lot of possibilities for fun bike trips on mountain bikes, Now that I have a good mountain bike that I know I can do long rides on I now have a whole new set of places I can go and explore. A lot of people we met on the trail were doing the C&O trail to DC so that is now on my list. There are always new trail being created so there will be more trips like this in my future.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

GAP Trail Day 3 A Historic Tour



We made it!. Three days and 150 miles later and we are now done. Each day of this ride has been a little different. The first day was all about the urban landscape and the steel and coal industry, Yesterday was an enjoyable day in the woods. Today we learn a lot about the history of the area we were riding through. We saw a lot of information about the building of the rail road and the history of the towns.

It had rained overnight and was a little misty when we started. It was in the mid 60s so although it was a little damp once we got started I was comfortable warm. Because of the rain the trail was a little softer but not really loose or muddy at all. Today we were headed east from Rockwood to the end in Cumberland. It was the usual 1% uphill which I didn't really feel. The first major site we saw today was the Salisbury Viaduct bridge. This is a long bridge over a valley.


Although it was overcast the view was still nice. We are at least 150 up so it is hard to capture how high this really feels in a picture.

The next stop was the town of Meyersdale which has a restored train station that is a restroom as well as a museum and gift shop. The museum has a lot of displays and information about the rail road and even had a caboose you could walk around in. It was really well done so we spent some time here looking around.



Eight miles later we hit the high point of our ride 2392 feet. It had taken us 3 days and 125 mile to get here but we finally reached the Eastern Continental Divide.



This is the point that divides the Gulf of Mexico watershed from the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

After this it was all down hill and it really was. We had over 22 miles of 3-4% constant downhill. The only problem was that we were in a cloud so it was very foggy. But that actually made for a couple cool pics.

A mile after going over the divide we hit the first of three tunnels. The first was the Big Salvage tunnel which is over 3800 feet long.



You can't see the end of the tunnel when you enter it. It is lit but it only just bright enough to make your way through.



Jack, Dorthy, and Bob used lights in the tunnel but I didn't pull mine out. It felt like riding through a mine shaft. It was both cool and scary to ride through.

When I got to the end of the tunnel Jack and Bob were taking a break and in the fog they appeared as silhouettes that made a good picture.



The next tunnel was the Borden tunnel. You could just see the end of the tunnel when you got into it but it was a long way off. There were no lights but just enough ambient light to kinda see where you were going.


When I got about half way through this tunnel I had a very weird sensation. Since the end of the tunnel was still far away it wasn't getting any bigger. I also couldn't see the sides of the tunnel. Even though I was pedaling away I felt like I wasn't moving at all. It felt like I was on a stationary bike. Very strange.

The last town we hit before Cumberland was Frostburg. We pulled over for a break I notice an interesting arch.


As I was taking this picture I notice that Jack was climbing the hill behind it. It turned out that the town had added some switch backs on the hill and some sculptures. It was the switchback sculpture garden.




This was just another example of some of effort that is put into these trails to make them more fun and interesting. Each day our rides took longer than expected mostly because of all the things to see just off the trail. That is one of the things that make this not just a ride but an experience.

After Frostburg it was a quick cruise down hill to Cumberland to mile zero and the end of the ride.



It was an amazing ride. The last few posts I did on the ride didn't really cover it all so I will probably put out another about it once I get home. The bottom line is that this is one of the best trails in the country so it should be on your short list of trips.