We love New Orleans and several years ago, we had done a bike tour of the neighborhoods in the city. (This was two years after Hurricane Katrina and the 2-3 foot high water marks could still be seen on the homes where the water had crested.) We were excited to get to town, but first, we had to explore Louisiana’s first rail trail. We started at the west end of the 28.2-mile Tammany Trace Trail in the cute little town of Covington after driving several miles along Louisiana “highways” (known as two-lane country roads in other states) north of Lake Ponchartrain. The landscape along these highways mimicked that which the trail traversed: scruffy pines and other trees nestled among soft green underbrush – all rising out of the swampy forests and wetlands with turgid canals on either side of the road/trail.
When we want to ride somewhere that is peaceful, green and flat, with absolutely no auto traffic and very few other bikers, we make the 90-minute drive from DC to this hidden gem. On this occasion, we started out at the eastern trailhead of the Western Maryland Rail Trail, conveniently located near a gas station with a mini-mart. After water bottling up, we unloaded everything and headed west on the single-road-width paved trail. The first mile is quiet and passes beneath a pretty stone bridge, but soon it runs parallel to Rt. I- 70. (This is the same I-70 that runs from Baltimore, MD to Denver, CO, and while it’s loud, only a few miles of the trail run within earshot of it.)
Kellie took off on the Silver Comet Trail about midway along the 61-mile rail trail that extends from the suburbs of Atlanta to the Alabama state line. Coots Lake trailhead, at mile 33, is right off of Route 278 just before Rockmart and just after the long climb at Brushy Mountain Tunnel (convenient, huh?). Here the trail runs through a lightly wooded area where small homes and pastures could be seen through the trees.
After numerous back-to-back cold, windy and sometimes rainy rides, it was a joy to be in the sunny, windless and 86-degree weather of San Antonio. Kellie had to do this trail solo (while Jim golfed nearby), so she started midway on the 20-mile Leon Creek Greenway, which runs along the western edge of town and heads north. Her intention was to ride north to the end, then turn around and ride south to the other end, then return to the car. But somewhere along the first leg, she ended up on the 25-mile Salado Creek Greenway, which heads south down the eastern side of San Antonio. (The large arching sign over the trail that read “Salado Creek Greenway” should have been a clue).
The Buffalo Bayou Trail in downtown Houston is one of the prettier, but more confusing urban trails we’ve been on. The rolling, paved trail runs along both sides of the Buffalo Bayou River in the shadow of the city’s dramatic skyline. It traverses pretty riverbank parks, dips under several bridges, occasionally requires street crossings, and seems to be a part of a not-well-marked tapestry of trails.
Our first ride of 2022 was during a brief escape from the cold when we visited family in Sarasota, FL. While there are a couple of good trails in the area (Legacy, etc.), we decided to try the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail which starts in St. Petersburg and ends 50 miles north in around Keystone. This was inducted in 2008 into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame, although we’re not entirely clear as to why. It may be because there didn’t used to be any safe lanes for bikers, runners or families to traverse in this area, so this was a great civic accomplishment. Fred was the city administrator who championed this back in the 90’s and Pinellas is the county it’s located in.
It has been many years since we did an organized bike trip, but on the occasion of one of Kellie’s milestone birthdays (no, she will not dignify that question with an answer), Jim surprised her with a Backroads trip to Death Valley. The ride included three days of biking and one of hiking through the vast, dry valley and up a couple of the mountain ridges.
En route from the Greenbrier in West Virginia to Louisville, KY, we felt nostalgia drawing us to Lexington, KY, where our youngest son had spent four fun-filled years as a UK Wildcat. We have to admit that these were fun years for us, too: we timed our thrice-yearly visits to coincide with the fall horse races at Keeneland, our son’s winter ice hockey games (held at midnight!), and the spring horse races at Keeneland.
This was our first trip to South Dakota, so obviously, it was also our first trip to Sioux Falls. We’d read about the Sioux Falls Loop and decided to begin at the southernmost point and ride counterclockwise around the city. We parked and unloaded our bikes at Yankton Trail Park and headed east through beautiful parkland for a few miles before turning north at Tuthill Park. Here the trail follows the not-very Big Sioux River, winding along its manicured and tree-lined banks, beside pretty picnic areas and soccer fields that no doubt come alive on the weekends. But it was lovely and quiet during the weekday afternoon when we visited and we passed few other bikers on the trail.
While our plan was to bike the Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway, we got a bit diverted by a narrow strip of land called Rockefeller Park, located just beyond the sprawling campus of the Cleveland Clinic. We rode through the park on the Harris Dillard Trail, which goes mostly downhill for about 3.7 miles to Lake Erie. Riding through this beautifully landscaped oasis amidst otherwise, urban commercial neighborhoods, we passed the Museum of Natural History, the Maltz Center for Performing Arts (a former synagogue) and the campus of Case Western Reserve University.