A question posed to the Brand Ambassadors today got me thinking. The question was: “Where is your favorite place to ride?” Between late March and July, we had covered almost all of our usual routes and one or two less frequently visited areas. I can’t really narrow down my favorite place to bike. I can name my favorite time of day to ride. I’m a morning person, so I try to be on the bike by 10 am.
Having this great new Vantage F1 Hybrid opened up the idea of adding some more paved routes to our list of rides. June 12th, Robin had been under the weather for a week or so, so I was trying to think of a ride to take that wasn’t too strenuous. I remembered the BWI Trail that circles Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The trail is completely paved, mostly level and about 12 miles in length. In my bio below, I mention my interests in mechanized transportation, and many of our bike rides (and vacations) have ties to my interest in planes, trains, cars and ships. We actually considered doing two laps around the airport, but I spent too much time taking pictures and we ran short on time, plus, it was the hottest day of the season to that point. Sounds like a plan for Fall.
Two weeks later the opportunity arose to take a spontaneous beach weekend in Ocean City, MD. I had the Vantage “down the ocean” (the term Baltimoreans use for Ocean City) back in April, but we didn’t get much riding in due to the cool windy conditions, and the road work on Coastal Highway. Ocean City is a barrier island, with the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast, and the Assawoman Bay on the northwest side, and Isle of Wight Bay along the southwest. Saturday, we rode the paths at Northside Park which has baseball, softball, soccer/lacrosse fields, a lagoon, wildlife, rec centers, playgrounds, etc. There was also an art festival that day, then we explored some of the neighborhoods in North OC. We also stumbled upon the Fenwick Lighthouse on the Maryland-Delaware border. Sunday we rode south, exploring some of the bayside neighborhoods. Being that it was “on season” after Memorial Day we didn’t get out early enough to ride on the Boardwalk. Bikes are allowed on the boards until 10 or 11am during the summer season. Those adventures will be shared after our summer vacation in August.
July 9th and 10th was our grandson’s first birthday party weekend, so I brainstormed which section of the GAP to ride. (Have I mentioned how much I love my daughter’s proximity to the GAP?) Since the primary reason for traveling to Western Maryland was his birthday party, I wanted to plan a ride local to Erica’s house that wasn’t too strenuous or time consuming. I went on MapMyRide.com to plan a route, with my goal being around 20 miles. Frostburg to Cumberland is 16 miles and all downhill, with Mile 0 of the Great Allegheny Passage being at the Western Maryland Railway Station at Canal Place. GAP Mile 0 is also the end of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath which begins in Washington DC and follows the Potomac River through Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, and Allegany Counties.
My parents, sisters, nieces and nephews also made the 180 mile journey to Western Maryland to go to the birthday party. My family had a hotel room in Frostburg, so the next day Robin and I left Erica’s house on the bikes a little after 10 am with plans to meet everyone in Cumberland for lunch. While we rode the bike path east, my daughter gave the family the tour of her town, and the train station with its turntable. When the scenic train ride arrives in Frostburg, the locomotive is uncoupled from the train and is turned around on a turntable, then travels on a siding to the end of the train to be coupled up and head down the mountain, returning to Cumberland. Quite a sight, and I’m looking forward to the (in-progress) restored 1309 making the trip. Hopefully before the end of this year’s season.
Besides the 19th Century Frostburg Depot station and turntable, some of the other landmarks along this stretch of the GAP are Brush Tunnel, Helmstetter’s Curve, The Bone Cave, a really cool steel bridge with Lover’s Leap in the background, and The Cumberland Narrows. I got really excited when I noticed on the satellite view on MapMyRide, a spur of the C&O Towpath trail crosses the Potomac River into West Virginia. We’ve never ventured onto the C&O side, and we’ve never been to W. Virginia even though we’ve been within sight of it every trip to Western Maryland. We found the spur across the Potomac into W. Virginia, and were immediately greeted by another tunnel, the Knobley Tunnel about 6/10ths of a mile off the main trail. Total length of our ride from Frostburg to West Virginia and back to Cumberland was just short of 23 miles.
For anyone interested in combining the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad with some leisurely bike riding, book a train ticket (there is limited room for bicycles on the baggage car, so get there early) ride a little on the very level C&O side, then board the train for Frostburg. In Frostburg, you’ll disembark the train, claim your bike and head down the winding half mile path to the Frostburg trailhead. Make the right if you want to head back down the mountain, or if you’re up to some climbing, make the left toward Meyersdale and points west. The PA line is about 5 miles and the spectacular view between the state line and Big Savage Tunnel is well worth the climb (and of course, as Robin says, your reward is 20+ miles off all downhill)! Hybrids with their wide range of gear ratios are the most suitable bike for the GAP, with its surface of mostly crushed stone. Knobby mountain bike tires are not a necessity, but maybe a tire wider than a road tire is best since some portions of the trail can be a bit sandy. From “The Narrows” into Cumberland the trail is paved with asphalt. At Canal place, there is an open air mall with a bike shop that also sells supplies for home brewing beer http://www.ctcbikes.com/ (an odd combination, if you ask me), pubs, a park, and the souvenir shop at the 1911 WMSR Train Station.
In two short weeks it will be time to head “down the ocean” again for our family vacation. Make sure you return to this page to read all about our beach adventures!
My name is Rob, and my wife/ partner in crime is Robin. We’ve been together for a little over three decades, and married 27 years. We have a daughter and son, both in their 20’s and we have one grandson who will have his first birthday in July. I have many interests and hobbies, including all forms of mechanized transportation. I’m a tinkerer who has been riding, maintaining and rehabilitating bicycles since around 8 years old.
This year, 2016, will be our 5th year of biking adventures around our home state of Maryland, and into Pennsylvania and Delaware. Maryland has the nickname of “America in Miniature” and we experience the whole state from the rail trails of the Allegheny Mountains out west, to our neighborhoods in the Northeast, to the Atlantic beach resorts.
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