Thursday, November 25, 2010

Riding More Rail Trails

You wouldn't want to sit on these steeds. They are not as trusty as you might think. There are large metal spikes poking up through each of the seats to prohibit people from getting up there.

Yesterday I was fortunate to ride two more rail trails: The York Heritage Rail Trail and the North Central Railroad Trail. They seamlessly meet at the Mason Dixon Line that marks the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland, and both run about 20 miles long for a total of about 40 miles. This was a one way only trip for me, and thankfully it worked out that I had to do it going north to south. There is a slight downward grade in that direction.
Even though they seamlessly connect, they are not the same trail. The York Trail is much wider and has a smoother surface. It is a few years younger though. It runs directly next to the rails, which are still active. This is called a 'rail with trail.' One thing I did not think to do before the ride was check the train schedule for that rail line. However, a train did not come by while I was on the trail. There were always houses in view from this trail, so I never felt completely alone. Not many people were out using it, but every now and then I would pass another cyclist or someone walking their dog. I came across one stray dog sniffing along the tracks. I saw him up ahead, and decided to get off my bike. He slowly came toward me, and scurried past in an uncertain way. He must have felt the same way as I did. Based on a few encounters with other dogs while on my bike in the past few months I was ready to get out the pepper spray.
The North Central Trail is starkly different. It is much narrower, a bit of a rough ride (at least at the northern end), and goes through Gunpowder Falls State Park so it is more 'out there.' Remember, this trail is older, built in 1984. I realized that the Fuji Touring Series IV I was on is actually the same age, built in '84 as well. There were times I felt pretty alone (and vulnerable). That feeling never lasted for long though. I encountered more people using this trail. This one is a 'rail to trail,' meaning it was made directly over the old rail bed that used to be there. No dog encounters on this one, but a friendly stranger, Jerry, approached me as I was taking a picture of the I-83 overpass. He noticed my league cycling instructor jacket, and had a question about pedaling technique. I noticed he bought his bike from Mt. Airy Bikes, one of my favorite shops in Maryland. We ended up riding a few miles together and talking before he veered off to where his car was parked.
Despite being pretty chilly, the weather was perfect for a ride. I've realized that if I only do my rides in good weather I'm going to miss some special times. I was ready to ride in the rain yesterday, but am thankful I didn't have to. I was prepared for the cold with proper gear, so it didn't affect me at all. I was very comfortable on the bike. I had plenty to eat and drink and did so every 10 to 15 minutes. I don't get to ride consistently these days, but I was able to find some time in the two weeks leading up to this ride to get in some miles. That helped me tweak my bike mechanically and deal with a bit of a fit issue. The things I did to prepare for yesterday's ride helped it to be successful.

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