James A. Van Fleet State Trail

11/10/2011 12:00:00 by Administrator

Mabel, FL
Polk City, FL
60 miles

James A. Van Fleet State Trail
SeeMore rode the James A. Van Fleet State Trail. This former railroad runs 29 miles through some of Florida's Green Swamp and can be summed up using just two words - flat and straight.

No need to change gears, no need to use the brakes, no need to use your handle bars to steer. This is a straight, flat and nicely paved rails to trail.

We started out in Mabel Florida at the northern terminal (121st street), and rode south to Polk City. Supposedly, among the wildlife, you will be able to see alligators in the water beside the trail and various snakes sunning themselves on the path. Fortnately we did not see this variety of wildlife as I did not mention this to the Rear Admiral! We did see many squirrels, gopher tortoises, and vultures but nothing else. The multitude of trees and plants kept our interest though. It is wonderful to see flowering trees and schrubs in November.

There are flush toilets and drinking water at the both ends of the trail and one ten miles north of Polk City.

We rode an extra 2 miles because the Rear Admiral had difficulty (first time) using the Urbanspoon app for our iPhone, locating our lunch. For lunch we had our first Hungry Howies. They are a franchise of pizza places, located from Michigan to Florida. We ordered the steak, mushroom and cheese "sub". When I went back to ask the gentlemen to not toast the bread, he looked at me like I had two heads. The "sub" was really a calzone (minus the pizza sauce). The jury is still out on Hungry Howies.

Would be do this trail again? It's a great trail, best served in smaller portions. I would not recommend the 60 mile round trip. If your looking for a quick 20 to 30 mie trip there is enough diversity on the trail but after 40 miles we started to think we were in the twilight zone.

The Virginia Creeper Trail

11/03/2011 12:00:00 by Administrator

Damascus, VA
Whitetop, VA
35 miles

The Virginia Creeper Trail
Warning, if you are traveling route 58 in Virginia, from Damascus to Whitetop, we recommend unhooking your tow vehicle . . . if you are camping in a 5th wheel . . . good luck! For those of you are visiting the area in a RV your best bet for accessing this trail is to find camping or lodging in the Abington/Damascus area.

Hind sight is 20/20 so unfortunately, we stayed the night at a private campground near the summit of Whitetop mountain, Virginia (elevation at the summit of Whitetop is 5, 525 ft). The campground was located in the middle of a Christmas Tree Farm and we were the only campers in the place. The RV sites are located on top of a hill full of Christmas Trees. The views and the smells were fantastic, but it was way over priced for what you got in return (no wifi, no cell, no running water, luke warm showers, and the bathrooms were located at the bottom of the campground). This is a nice campground for tent campers, not so much for RVs.

After scoping out the area and a quick ride in the car down to Damascus, we decided to ride the trail up hill from Damascus to Whitetop. The elevation differences between Damascus and Whitetop is about 1600 feet over 17 miles. The steepest grade is 5%. Since SeeMore had not been out much all summer, we decided to challenge ourselves a bit. What a great decision.

So in the morning, we packed up Gulliver (our Lazy Daze and with the Subaru leading), then headed down the mountain to Damascus. At the parking lot in Damascus Mary made breakfast (her lumberjack special without bacon). I got SeeMore assembled and attached Sammie's tail wagon.

The Virginia Creeper Rails Trail travels for 34 miles total, from end to end. Starting in Abington, Va and ending at the North Carolina border. Damascus Virginia is the exact half way point in the trail. If you wish a less stepper climb, take the trail towards Abington. Damascus is also famous for those hiking the Appalachian Trail, part of the Appalachian Trail actually follows the Virginia Creeper Rail Trail . . . SeeMore has now done some of the Appalachian Trail! Riding this trail is like taking a hike in the mountains on your bike. It is BEAUTIFUL, following the Whitetop Laurel River almost all of the time. If you seek views of wildlife, mountain laurel, birds, christmas tree farms, beautiful waterfalls, ride this treasure. The trail's wide graveled stone path crosses many bridges as it curves through the mountains. Along the trail are a number of rest room facilities, and there seems like there are plenty places to eat (during the busy months). You will pass hikers (some going up Mount Rogers, some enjoying the Appalachian Trail) and horse riders. There was very little bike traffic on the day we rode, due to off season. Although this trail is promoted as a mountail bike trail any bike with hybrid or non "street/road" specific tires will do well on the trail surfaces.

There are (eye count) 5 bike rental companies in Damascus which allow you to not only rent bikes, but will take you to the Whitetop parking lot (or Abington), so you can have a very easy 17 mile ride back to Damascus. SeeMore would have none of that, being the thoroughbred that he is. The climb out of Damascus had grades from 2 percent to 5 percent . The steepest grades located towards the Whitetop end of the trail. It took our "out of shape bodies" about 3 hours to climb the 17 miles, and about an hour to go down. Of course, Sammie in the trailer didn't want to help pedal up hill!

We had lunch at the Whitetop staging / parking lot. On our return journey back to Gulliver, we did not pedal for about the first 5 miles. We had to pick up our pace a bit near the Green Cove Station, as we were chased by what we previously had thought was a big "dead white sheep" which actually turned out to be a very large newfoundland dog. . . who gave SeeMore and a barking Sammie a chase!

So if you in the area, make sure you get on your pedals and enjoy this Virginia Gem.

Riding Recumbents

12/27/2010 12:00:00 by Administrator

A friend of ours recently had surgery on his right arm, and after a long healing process, he will then have his left shoulder worked on. With all of these "repairs" he will be pretty incapacitated for almost a whole year. He is very fit, and one of his activities is bicycling riding. This got me thinking about how a recumbent bike just might be the ticket for those of you out there who have otherwise had to give up riding due to physical demands of a wedgie style bike.

If you are one of the many baby boomers who are considering cycling as a regular activity but are worried about how you can ride without putting stress on your backs, shoulders, wrists, or arms? My answer is ....how about giving recumbent bicycles a try!

Before continuing, I need to confess. The number one reason why I ride, is that it is my "yoga". I am addicted to the circular movements of the pedals, it allows me to get into the "present". As an example: If I have a long day, filled with hard decisions, the best why I have found to solve them . . . is the go for a long bicycle ride AND keeping my mind as totally free of thoughts as possible. At the end of the ride, if I really stayed "present", those hard decisions are solved. So for me, getting on a bike, and pedaling a 10-30 miles is a joy.

What I Know about Recumbents.
SeeMore, our orange tandem, is a Rans Screamer. He is aptly named, because we truly believe we "see more" when we out enjoying his company. We also believe that we are "seen more" by other vehicles sharing the road. With this combination we feel very safe riding him.

To date, we have only ridden two recumbent tandems. Tandem life is not all down hill, and tail winds. It takes two to ride, and there have been days (very very few) that it felt that we were both riding on different bikes. For more information on what it feels like riding SeeMore, click here.

Is SeeMore perfect? Almost. The only thing I would change is the size of the front tire ( I would like each tire to be 26 ). Yes, for a couple of years now I have been looking at the Rans Seavo... but it ain't going to happen (we're too attached to Seemore). The reason for two 26" tires, is that on tours I would be able to only carry one size tube AND I could rotate the tires, making the tires last a lot longer. When SeeMore's rear tire blew 70 miles from West Yellowstone, I could not switched tires ( letting the rear one carry all the weight) thus I felt very uncomfortable trying to get into West Yellowstone on a "non touring " tire.

You are a "sight".
Let's face it, you are an oddity when on the road. I am pretty "famous" cycling the roads in southern New Hampshire. People honk at me all the time, and people pull over and stop me to talk about recumbent cycling. This is one of the things you have to get use to. I truly love fielding questions and meeting people. If solitude is your goal, you might find it hard when riding a bent.

No more cycling cloths.
I can't wear cycling shirts, the back pockets used for storing quick snacks rub against the back of my seat. This causes irritations. I don't need cycling pants, I mostly wear shorts (at temperatures above 50) but they must not have rear pockets (irritations, again). I find most of my "recumbent cycling wear" at stores like EMS. Also, I do not wear cycling gloves. Because there is very little (almost none) body weight on the handle bars, I found gloves unnecessary. No more funny tan lines on the back of my hands!

Cycling shoes
I enjoy being clipped in. Which brings up an important fact. When coming to a stop, you must get to a gear that will allow you to start off easily. ALWAYS SHIFT DOWN when coming to a stop. You CAN NOT stand to push down on the pedals. At stop signs or caution areas you will need to be more respectful. When riding SeeMore, the rear admiral stays clipped in, while I put my left foot down, balancing everyone while stopped. During stops, with one leg balancing, my right pedal is at the "11:30" position, ready for the all clear. Both on the tandem and on my single recumbents, I've had to head back down a steep hill, before continuing to climb. . . when I was forced to stop mid ascent. Moral of the story, try not to stop on a steep hill!

Standard Bicycle Accessories
Things can get a little tricky here. It depends on the recumbent, but when shopping for one you should be aware on how accessories may or may not fit your chossen bike. Remember to consider how a mirror, lights, computer, water bottles, rack, or bags need to attached. Some items need to purchased at a recumbent dealer, some need to be tailored to work. Brake and derailleur cables almost always have the be tandem length.

Handling - our bikes (Orca, Screamer, F5, and Rocket)

  • Down Hill - we are faster than most regular bicycles going down hill.
  • Flats - we can maintain the same speed as others of our ability on the flats when we are on our single bike(s). SeeMore is a beast...and he is slow (the way we like him to be!) We have a slight advantage on flats when riding into headwinds, then our friends on their regular bikes. So we tend use less energy.
  • Climbing - Hills are a different story since we cannot stand on our pedals. While climbing, our lower back pushes against the lower part of the back of our seats. We can travel at a slower speed without feeling like we are tipping over. So yes, our recumbents are no speed demons going up hill. How about climbing large hills on a bent? Mary and I climbed 27 Mountain (Rockies) passes on SeeMore on our Great Parks tour.
Steering and turning are different also. Recumbents need very little steering. This is something you will have to get used to. It is very important that your hands rest gently on the handlebars. You can over steer, which is a big mistake. Just remember that THE BENT is in control, and you are all set. Most of our steering is by shifting our weight. If you hit a groove in the pavement, do not steer out of it! It's best to let the recumbent handle it. It takes a full size two lane American road to reverse direction when we are on SeeMore. Our single bents take a lot of road also. When reversing direction, you may need to watch your heals of your feet, as they may hit the front tire of certain recumbents.

Different pedal strokes for different folks
I have ridden a number of different kinds of recumbents, but not all. If you are located in New England, the two bicycle shops I would recommend visiting are (in order):The Bicycle Man located in Alfred New York and Basically Bicycles located inTurner Falls MA.

I have always wanted to visit the Bicycle Man, but as of this post I have not. However, I learned (through many blog postings on my different websites) that he really really knows his stuff. He has a larger inventory than most shops (even recumbent only shops), and if you tell him exactly what your trying to do, he will point you in the right direction. We purchased the Rans Rocket and SeeMore at Basically Bicycles in Turner Falls Ma. David (the owner) doesn't have a lot of different bents to ride, but he is very knowledgeable and he has a no pressure sales approach. He let Mary and I take SeeMore out for 2 days (about 70 miles) of test driving, before we purchased him! I get the feeling that he truly loves recumbents and gives you the opportunity to figure them out before you purchase (more on this later).

The Rans F5 I own is fast, but not made for commuting. He is very light. With the wind fairing this is a very fast bike. Younger cyclists have a hard time keeping up with me (I'm 50 plus years young) when I have the need for speed. If you need more speed, I would recommend the F5 Pro over the regular F5. The Gold Rush by Easy Racers is another very fast recumbent.

I ride a Optima Orca to commute back an forth to work. My commute is about 32 miles, round trip. This is a very "bullet" proof bike which allows me to carry a lot of "stuff". He is NO light weigth. We take the Orca, Rocket and Screamer off road on hard packed rails-to-trails. However, we do not do very well in soft sand, period. We also do not do mountain biking on our recumbents.

My dream machine
If I lived in a area filed with bicycle trails I would own a Quest velomobile. I have never ridden in one but reading the many blog postings on the net I get the feeling that the Quest is, quite simply, a human powered rocket. The design of the Quest incorporates full suspension, drum brakes,  front and rear lighting, trip computer and a kayak-style 'skirt" to protect the rider in cold or wet weather.  Then I would be able to ride, comfortably, even in downpours!

Most of you reading this are sitting with your backs against a comfortable chair. If you stop reading and look around, your vision is about 300 degrees in every direction. Seating on recumbents is the same. We refer to it as sitting in an easy chair.

After day trip, riding for 50 miles on one of our recumbents, we do not have any upper body aches or saddle sores. Yes we get tired and we can definitely feel our leg muscles, but neither of us have knee issues.

With regard to figuring out whether a recumbent is for you? You will need to have patience, you will not learn to ride a recumbent over night. The ride part is pure delight but getting going is challenging and you have to practice, practice, practice.

The best advise on purchasing any bicycle, is to test drive as many as you can.

Around Lake Ontario - Day 10

07/22/2010 13:00:00 by Administrator

Kingston, ON
Watertown, NY
55 miles (some by ferry)

Yet Another perfect day for riding, with tailwinds!

We left the Comfort Inn on Princess Street, with full stomachs from their breakfast selection, and rode down to the Wolfe Island ferry. Traveling through downtown Kingston (population 120,000) was very easy and fun. We arrived at the ferry with about 15 minutes to spare. Wolfe Island is rural, and made up of large farms. The farmers are growing all kinds of food, but we think their number one crop is wind turbines.

The Wolfe Island wind turbine project began with 24 turbines and grew to 86. It is now the largest turbine project in Canada (as of this writing). Each wind turbine has blades that are 148 feet in length making the effect diameter of the blade rotation 300 feet. The height of the wind plant mast is 262 feet. As a comparison, they are four to six times the height of a typical farm silo. The rotor disc alone spans one acre.

We took Line Road 7 out of Maryville towards the Cape Vincent (U.S.A. ferry). The road is not traveled on much, and is made of crush stone. We traveled through the middle of the island, and the wind turbines. It is my opinion that these wind turbines are beautiful, and combined with farm silos...it was pretty surreal. I had looked up Wolfe Island on the Google maps the night before and knew we needed to take a left out off of Line Road 7. For some reason the GPS wasn't working, so instead of going all the way to the end of Line Road 7, I took a left one road to soon (fellow cyclist, go all the way to the end of Line Road 7). This put us on the west side of the bay, we needed to be on the east side. After accusations of "pedaling backwards" (I am famous for going real slow on the last day of a tour) from the Rear Admiral, we tried the GPS one more time, and the coarse was correct. Secretly, I was really enjoying this "muck-up".

Both ferry rides were fun, the second one (operated by the U.S.) lifted 4 dollars from our pockets...... but.... SeeMore had his own "car size" parking space! Going through customs was easy, once the Rear Admiral took off her sunglasses! We then had a picnic lunch in the Cape Vincent park. The highlights of the lunch was the freshly made sub from Aubrey's Market, with local cherries for dessert.

The rest of the 30 miles back to the car was through rolling hills and farmland.

Another great touring experience. HIGHLY recommended! The many bike paths on the Waterfront trail, the people of Canada, and the variety of riding experience made this tour so much fun. Now it's your turn to get out and ride around Lake Ontario!

Around Lake Ontario - Day 9

07/21/2010 13:00:00 by Administrator

Brighton, ON
Kingston, ON
77 miles

Another perfect day for riding, with tailwinds! Toward the end, skies were very black. At one point through downtown Kingston, on a long flat stretch, with 2 lanes of traffic, SeeMore in his highest gear, angry skies above....SeeMore hit 30 mph! Not bad after 75 miles of cycling!

Most of the day we spent traveling on route 33 (The Loyalist Highway), so the Rear Admiral did not have to look at the maps in the Waterfront trail book at all. We have a warning for other cyclist...if you are going to take the "rough" road next to the Murry Canal, make sure there hasn't been any rain in the past couple of days. I need to thank the Rear Admiral, yet again, because she let SeeMore and I do some "off roading". I knew that today's travels would be all road, so I read the "rough road" warnings in the book, and threw caution to the wind! We had some very technical riding (we had only one 100 foot section that was too muddy and unsafe to ride), but were treated to sightings of a raccoon, King fisher, mink, and some small yachts! However, most of the time SeeMore and I spent concentrating on the road and the "millions" of large and small mud puddles. SeeMore was dirty...but you should have seen the smile on his face! Another caution, if you are traveling east bound, take a right out of Murry Canal road on route 33. There are 7 extra miles on today's journey because of a left turn!

Until Wellington, we traveled through farm country with no lake is sight. After Wellington and until Kingston, 90 percent of the time we rode next to Lake Ontario...what a pleasure! We had lunch west of Picton, at a "Texas BBQ" grill...which we do not recommend. The food was expensive and stale. Food is very important for hungry cyclist! We then cycled through Picton and got to take the free ferry (Glenora) for a short 15 minute ride across a piece of the lake.

We are living large at the Comfort Inn, We out ran most of the rain rain today, (just 1.5 mile of light rain).

Around Lake Ontario - Day 8

07/20/2010 13:00:00 by Administrator

Oshawa, ON
Brighton, ON
74 miles

A perfect day for riding, with tailwinds!

The first part of today's Waterfront trail was a combination of quiet streets and bicycle paths. Most of the paths were crushed gravel. Pedaling by Lake Ontario we past marshes and wildlife reserves. After Bowmanville, the Waterfront trail is mostly on road, and very hilly. There is a dirt bicycle trail that runs through the Samuel Wilmot Nature Area that has two very short but VERY steep hills. When the sign says "Steep Hill" we recommend you walk your bike! If we were traveling from east to west, SeeMore would not have been able to make this trail.

Almost all the way from Port Hope to Brighton, you travel through flat farmland with little sight of the lake. If you have a tailwind, you can really let your tandem loose.

We are living large at the Brighton Motor Inn and tonight is laundry night...so we best get moving.

Around Lake Ontario - Day 7

07/19/2010 13:00:00 by Administrator

Bronte, ON
Oshawa, ON
71 miles

A perfect day for riding, the morning started out overcast with a threat of rain. The afternoon was blue skies, and a tail wind.

Today found us riding the suburbs of Toronto, and Toronto herself. Most of the day we cycled next to the lake, or within sight of the lake. Lakeshore drive continued to produce large mansions, southwest of the city, but our travels also included middle income neighborhoods and a lot of brand new townhouses, condos, and homes in the $250k range.

So far on this tour, every day has been extremely enjoyable. However, today (for Noel) was the best. The bicycle paths were fantastic! Riding through downtown Toronto was a blast! My favorite part of the day was the bicycle path through the town of Ajax, you could feel SeeMore smiling from handlebars to panniers. As we rode along the wide path, next to the lake, through the trees, flowers, and wild flowers...as a cyclist, you don't need anything more.

We had only one 2 mile stretch of hairy riding, West of Port Whitby you need to travel on Victoria street. There are no shoulders, and no end of traffic. Most of the drivers are extremely kind. Thanks to a bridge (which provided the only 1 foot shoulder), the only truck during this time, passed by us without a problem.....without the bridge it would have been a problem....

We are living large at the Best Western, close to highway 401 and just over the western town line of Oshawa. We will sleep well tonight, with very happy dreams and memories.