This is the time of year when our weather makes riding bicycles a joy. Whether the ride is to get to work, to the store, out for lunch or just to alleviate a headache or sore muscles, nothing beats a temperature in the 60 and 70 degrees with minimal wind.
In fact, this week I discovered something else that cycling can do. Riding home the other day, there was a healthy tailwind at my back. Looking at the computer, it reported a constant speed of 25 mph, relaxed heart rate, and minimum power wattage output, all of which held up for quite a few miles.
It dawned on me that the stats being reported were that of a much younger person. From this, a new axiom was formulated. “A good tailwind can take 20 years off your age!” Unfortunately, the reverse is also true — a headwind will age you beyond your years.
Commuting back and forth is good for the daily ride. Sometimes, however, a vacation is in order. Not a vacation from the bike, but a bicycle vacation. Take a chance to be an explorer of new places and do it at a pace that allows time to contemplate and enjoy that which surrounds us.
According to the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy (RailsToTrails.org), there are somewhere around 22,000 miles of converted rail lines in the U.S. The number grows constantly. These rail trails come in all different lengths, from our own 8-mile Pioneer Cape Haze trail to one of my personal favorites, the 276-mile KATY trail across Missouri.
The trails all have different amenity levels too. PCH has parking lots and a restroom. The KATY trail has an interactive website that allows a rider to plan out the trip based on miles per day, lodging, wineries and breweries, visitor points of interest and much more. My wife and I rode this trail a few years ago, choosing to ride about 40 miles a day and spending the evenings in bed-and-breakfast lodgings each night. The trail runs alongside the Missouri river and many parts of it are also on the Lewis and Clark route out west.
Another beautiful trail ride is actually two trails that connect. The first is the Great Allegheny Passage which is 150 miles of biking and hiking from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cumberland, Maryland (GapTrail.org). It connects up with the C&O Canal Towpath trail, which runs 185 miles along the Potomac River from Cumberland to Washington, D.C. The end of the Towpath trail pops out right in Georgetown, and from there it is an easy ride into Washington to visit the monuments, White House and other tourist sites.
Closer to home is the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail which also goes by the unfortunate acronym LOST. This 110-mile trail circles the top of the Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee. One of the things that makes this a great exploration and adventure ride is that the Army Corp of Engineers always seem to be working on the dike, so invariably some parts of the trail will be closed. It’s really not a big issue, since you can come down off the dike, ride the road around the closure and then back up on the dike to continue the journey. You can do the ride in one day or break it up into smaller segments and spend some quality time camping or staying at one of the hotels or B&Bs around the lake.
These are just a few of the rails to trails rides you can enjoy. Don’t forget that there are also thousands of miles of on road routes all across Florida, such as the the SUN Trail that when finished will circumnavigate the state (http://bit.ly/2FaMxDw).
As always, with the tremendous opportunities we have in this country to become a pedalist. Did you ride your bike today?