A Sunny Ride in the Sunshine State on West Orange Trail

west-orange-trail-bridge

Bike Trail Views and our Reviews

West Orange Trail, Winter Garden, Florida

This is a rail trail.

We recently took the opportunity to get a ride in while on vacation in Florida. As you would imagine, Florida has a number of wonderful trails from which to choose. John’s research lead us to two trails that both sounded great. One trail, the Van Fleet Trail, was in an area that was described as having a lot of opportunities to see wildlife and sounded more isolated. Readers of this blog know how I feel about wildlife. I thought that it sounded like there was a distinct possibility that one or both of us could be eaten by an alligator and no one would know. So, while in theory I’d love to see a bunch of animals of varied diets up close along a scenic bike ride, in practice, the answer is actually (as kids these days say) a hard no. Which nudged us toward the West Orange Trail. The key words “flat,” “paved,” and “scenic,” were added to key points like, “20 easy miles” and “restaurants along the route.” It was also closer to our vacation site in Orlando and had a conveniently located bike rental shop, Bikes and Blades, at the Killarney Station trailhead.

west-orange-trail-fountain

We set out with our newly rented bikes at about 10:30 AM. There were at least two other parties of bike riders at the shop. It was a really nice, sunny and warm day. We peddled along feeling proud of ourselves for taking a break from vacation to ride and enjoying a mid 70’s degree day in February. But mostly I was feeling grateful to be doing something other than walking. We rode into the quaint downtown of Winter Garden and stopped at a pretty fountain for a few minutes.

west-orange-trail-view

We travelled on and enjoyed a peaceful ride with few other people on the trail. We decided to turn around and head back after a little over 12 miles. For as nice as it was, we determined that we might not be in peak bike shape having not ridden in months. We also planned to stop for lunch, so we wouldn’t end up starving and not getting lunch until 3:00 PM. There were several places to choose from back in the quaint downtown. We had a leisurely lunch, but it may not have been long enough for me. I’m not sure that I’m a fan of having lunch along the way, but we had done so in Spain and it was delightful. This time I felt sluggish and full riding back the final couple of miles to the bike shop. We were tired and our legs heavy when we got back to Killarney Station. But, we were smiling. We thought the overall ride was a delight and worth the time and effort. The rented bikes were pretty good, too. We were glad to have the chance to ride.

west-orange-trail-welcome-sign

 

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The Ups and Downs of Heritage Rail Trail County Park

Heritage Rail Trail County Park

Heritage Rail Trail County Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bike Trail Views and our Reviews

The Heritage Rail Trail, New Freedom, Pennsylvania
This is a rail trail.

Following a lovely ride on the Maryland part of this trail (The Torrey C. Brown/North Central Railroad Trail), (which you can read about here) we were eager to pick up where we left off at the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. We parked at the New Freedom Train Station parking lot. The trail is right next to the tracks, so we didn’t have to go looking for it. There is an operating “Steam into History” Excursion Train that travels back and forth to the Hanover Junction Station. The trail has a few areas of pavement, but I was very glad to have my trail bike for this one, as there are a lot more areas of crushed gravel. We had a hot and sunny day for this ride, and we got off to a later start than we had hoped. We set off, but before going further into Pennsylvania, we had to go the little over one mile back to the Maryland line.

Heritage Rail Trail  Train Engine

Heritage Rail Trail
Train Engine

We were delighted by the trains we saw at the beginning of our ride. It is a very cute and scenic area. We were lulled into a false sense of energy and joy by the lovely setting and what we would later learn was the fact that we were going downhill on our way further into Pennsylvania.

 

 

 

Heritage Rail Trail  Tracks and Trail

Heritage Rail Trail
Tracks and Trail

We felt quite good despite the heat. We went about 12 miles and decided to turn around. There were benches and picnic tables along the way.

Hanover Junction Station

Hanover Junction Station

We stopped at the super quaint Hanover Junction Station to have a snack, go to the bathroom and get more water. It was shortly after our stop that we realized we were going up hill at a grade that was steeper than our fitness levels found comfortable. We were exhausted and hot and losing our joy of the ride fast. We trudged along, stopping frequently and silently cursing our poor planning.

 

 

 

 

 

Steam in History Excursion Trail

Steam in History Excursion Trail

But, we made it. Finally, just as we got to our car, we were treated to seeing the working train in action. It was fun to see, but seeing our car was pure relief and happiness. We made a mental note to do the uphill of this trail first and the downhill on our way back, which will mean driving further into PA to start. We didn’t do the entire length of this trail, so there is still a piece left for a future ride. And, after some distance from our misery, we will no doubt look forward to tackling that last piece of the trail.

Steam Train in Action

Steam Train in Action

 

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Two Trails, One Great Ride

The Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

Bike Trail Views and Our Reviews

Michael Castle Trail (Delaware) and Ben Cardin Recreational Trail (Maryland) – C&D Canal

Heading into the July 4th holiday weekend, we didn’t have much lined up in terms of plans, however we knew we wanted to get out on our bikes again. Our friends, Sue and Sean, were available. We picked the best weather day, which was Saturday, for our ride. Although we have talked about a number of trail options (and have a long list of places we want to ride), we weren’t set on where to go. We ended up choosing the Michael Castle Trail (in Delaware) and the Ben Cardin Recreational Trail (in Maryland).

St. Georges Trail Head, Delaware

St. Georges Trail Head, Delaware

The Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

The Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

We picked the trail head at St. Georges, Delaware, which had plenty of parking and bathroom facilities. It was very straightforward to find coming from our house, and took about an hour and a half to get there. We were met by beautiful views of the soaring bridges and the lovely canal right away. After lubbing up with sunscreen, we set off for Maryland and the Ben Cardin Trail. The trail was not super wide, but it was paved and flat. And, while the parking lot was pretty full, the trail itself never felt crowded. In fact, it seemed really empty for a weekend day on a holiday weekend.

The Canal

The Canal

We were surprised it wasn’t, as it was a lovely day to be out. Everyone we passed was very friendly, which we all noticed. We enjoyed watching the mostly speed boats out on the canal as we tooled along. A couple miles in, we needed to track away from the canal and that’s where we hit a couple of hills. Shortly after that, we were back along the water and heading into a segment of trail that was rocks, gravel, and dirt. Thank goodness Sue had ridden it before and knew it was a definite trail bike trail. A few areas were so rocky, I was sure even the trail bike would have trouble, but it didn’t. Or, rather, I didn’t.

Michael_Castle_Trail_Trail and Canal View

One of the Many Bridges Along the Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

One of the Many Bridges Along the Michael Castle Trail, Delaware

We arrived in Maryland to literally zero fanfare. No “Welcome to Maryland” or “Delaware Looks Forward to Seeing You Really Soon, When you Return to Get your Car” signs or mileposts marked the change. There was a small sign that noted the end of the Michael Castle Trail, but that was it.

The Ben Cardin Trail was also paved and a bit wider and was noteworthy for the benches that periodically dotted the way. There were port-a-potties at the end of trail at Chesapeake City. It was a cute trail head. We stopped and walked around a bit. It was about a 10.5 mile ride from the car.

The Ben Cardin Trail, Chesapeake City, MD Trail Head

The Ben Cardin Trail, Chesapeake City, MD Trail Head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The return ride seemed to go a lot faster, which seems to always be the case. Especially when you rode out the first 10 miles against a headwind. After loading up the bikes, we went into Delaware City. We found a great restaurant, Crabby Dick’s, with nice views of the water and had a delicious lunch. We once again have more of the trail to ride (and another excuse to come back to this area), the piece going further into Delaware from our St. George’s starting point. We were exceedingly happy with our 21 miles and overall delightful day.

All Smiles After Great Ride!

All Smiles After Great Ride!

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A Beautiful Day to Ride the NCR Trail

NCR Rail Trail

Bike Trail Views and Our Reviews

Northern Central Railroad (NCR) Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail; Maryland

This is a Rail Trail

 The weather was supposed to be good, so we planned to ride. But where? That was the question and that’s doubtless where most of the dread originated. Our last ride was in my happy place, Spain. Our day long ride on a rail trail through a natural park in Sevilla was a total delight. Here are the details. So, where could we ride that is close to our home, and really nice? At first, we actually couldn’t come up with any place that didn’t have a drawback or two. We were quite mindful that we were out of bike shape, having not ridden since April. I finally suggested that we go back to the Northern Central Railroad (NCR) Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail. It would offer a scenic ride, but I’d have to use my trail bike instead of my road bike. I wasn’t sure how big of a problem that would be, as I felt very out of shape to be riding the heavy bike. But, oh well. It was too nice of a day to not try it. We told ourselves we’d take it easy. If it ended up being a short ride, so be it. The last time I was on this bike was last October on a section of this same trail. Here’s that post.

NCR Rail Trail

NCR Rail Trail

By the time we got in the car to go to our pre-selected trailhead, we were excited to be getting out for a ride. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. We jumped on the trail at White Hall. The trail was mostly shaded and offered delightful scenery for the entire ride. We made it to the Pennsylvania border, but the last few miles of enough of an uphill to notice, nearly did me in. The trail continues on into Pennsylvania, but there was no way we could have added any more miles to our ride today.

Maryland-Pennsylvania Border The Mason Dixon Line NCR Trail

Maryland-Pennsylvania Border The Mason Dixon Line
NCR Trail

But, next time… Thankfully, we were able to take a break and then enjoy some downhill on the return trip, which seemed to go a lot faster than the way out to the border. We rode a total of just under 20 miles and felt good, tired, but happy about the ride.

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A Rail Trail Bike Ride in Southern Spain

Olive Trees in Sevilla

Mini Vineyard in Sevilla

 

Bike Trail Views and Our Reviews

Parque Natural Sierra Norte

Sevilla, Spain.

We were planning our second trip to Seville, Spain in under six months thanks to our son’s extra semester studying in this delightful city. We wanted to be there for the Feria de Abril, and we also wanted to see different sights. I came across a tweet about a couple of bike tour possibilities in the south of Spain, and we were immediately hooked on the idea. We also did not want to spend more than one day riding, since there is so much to see and do in Seville, and Alyssa and her boyfriend had not been there before. We made a reservation with Andalucía Tours and Discovery for the five of us for the Countyside Bike Tour. It sounded like it would be perfect for us. A full day of riding, but with plenty of stopping to take photos.

Andalucia Tours and Discovery

We met Carlos at 8:45 am at the shop and loaded up the bikes. He talked us into trying the electric bikes, and since we did not have to use the battery powered juice unless we wanted or needed to we all agreed. Also, we were not sure of how we would do with a day long ride this early in the spring.

Street in Constantina, Spain

Street in Constantina, Spain

We all came into this activity in varying degrees of fitness. I had only done a couple of rides so far this year, but think I’m in pretty decent shape with all the swimming, walking, lifting and yoga I do; John had done less rides, but tends to ride a bit at the gym; Alex has been working out at a gym and riding the Sevici bikes around Sevilla, but not for extended periods of time; Alyssa hasn’t been on a bike or in a spin class for a long time, but is playing soccer and doing yoga; and Matt (Alyssa’s boyfriend) rides the bike when he goes to the gym. So, as much as I didn’t want to use the e-bike, it seemed like the thing to do. (And, I’m so glad we all opted for it.)

 

It was a beautiful day that started off on the cool side. We loaded up and headed off for the mountains of Seville, specifically the Parque Natural de la Sierra Norte de Sevilla. We pulled into Constantina, a small town, about an hour and a quarter later. Carlos got the bikes off the transport while we went to use the facilities at a bar on the street corner. I wasn’t going to use the electric, but Carlos told us to give it a try so we would be comfortable using it if we needed it. So, I turned the key to on, hopped on the bike and took off. It felt like a regular fat tire hybrid bike. Heavier than my road bike back home by a lot, but not too bad. I hit the plus button to see what the electric was like and almost flew off the back of the bike. I shot down the road like a rocket complete with G forces. Holy Moley! Everyone cracked up at my reaction to the juiced ride. I made a mental note that I wouldn’t be using the turbo boost, if I could help it.

We're Off!

We’re Off!

We set off through the quaint village and stopped at a beautiful church. We walked into it and took some photos. Then, continued on our way. The village looked to me like the pictures I’ve seen of Portuguese villages with all white buildings. It was really pretty. The sun was shining and the sky was a lovely blue. We were definitely in farm country.

Cobblestone Path

Cobblestone Path

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were olive trees, almond trees and orange trees along the way. We came across herds of cows, sheep and passed Iberian pig farms. These pigs are very pampered. One farm had special areas for pregnant pigs to live, so they don’t have to forage for their own food. It was a beautiful area.

Pampered Iberian Pigs

Pampered Iberian Pigs

 

 

 

Along the Way

Along the Way

 

 

Scenic Bridge

Scenic Bridge

Carlos stopped and pointed out interesting sights and we took lots more pictures.We were on roads that were not very traveled at all. We found out as we were entering another town, smaller than the first, that we would be riding on a trail that followed the mining railroad. We couldn’t believe it! How lucky for us to end up on a Spanish Rail Trail!

Forested Mountain

Forested Mountain

The views were spectacular.

 

 

 

Railroad Sign

Railroad Sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped in a recreational area and marveled at the beauty and peacefulness. We didn’t see anyone else on the trail. We had a small snack to carry us through to lunch.

Bridge with Sheep

Bridge with Sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped for lunch in San Nicolás del Puerto. It was delicious. Carlos arranged for us to try a bunch of local dishes: Salmorejo (a puréed tomato, garlic, onion soup with hard boiled egg on it); jamón Iberíco; a variety of setas (locally picked mushrooms) in a delicious sauce; Croquetas; and a plate of pork that sampled the best parts of the pig. It  was served with two big grilled peppers. Each piece of meat was more delicious than the last. We washed it down with the light red wine drink called Tinto de Verano, made with red wine and lemon soda. We were also invited to do a post meal shot of pomegranate liquor. It was very comida típica!

Typical Dish - Pork Platter

Typical Dish – Pork Platter

The second half of our trip was more of a workout as we hit a number of hills. Thankfully we had the electric assists, if we wanted or needed them. I definitely took advantage of it during a couple of areas. We went through the Cerro del Hierro mining town that currently only has forty people living it because the iron mine closed thirty years ago. It was difficult to comprehend this lifestyle. No cell phones. No jobs. Many moved out in search of work. Carlos told us about a man he talked to once that had walked twenty miles in one day just because he wanted to see the view from the distant mountain. It was a stark contrast to our time is money mentality. Carlos noted that, “Here, time is just time.”

Cerro del Hierro Former Iron Mines

Cerro del Hierro Former Iron Mines

We made it back to our transport in Constantina tired, a little sore, but so happy. It was an absolutely amazing day. We enjoyed some refreshing beverages back at the bar on the corner, while Carlos loaded the bikes back up.

Constantina

Constantina

We would do another trip in this region again in a heartbeat. The kids loved it, too. It easily became one of the best highlights of the trip. Carlos was a great guide and we highly recommend Andalucia Tours and Discovery.

Group Photo Along the Way

Group Photo Along the Way

 

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North Central Railroad Trail Fall Ride

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

Torrey C. Brown/Northern Central Rail Trail – Ashland, Maryland

This is a Rail Trail

Our first trail with my new hybrid bike was the Torrey C. Brown (TCB) Rail Trail, which was formerly the Northern Central Railroad Trail (NCR Trail) from Ashland, Maryland to York, Pennsylvania. We jumped on the trail at the Ashland Trailhead, which was about a 35 minute drive from our house. There was ample parking at this location, but the lot was pretty full. It was a chilly – low 50’s, but a sunny and bright fall day. There were lots of walkers, joggers, and bike riders coming and going. There was a rest/sitting area and port-a-potties next to the parking lot.

The Trail, October 2015

The Trail, October 2015


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We set off and were immediately impressed with the scenic and serene trail vibe. The trail was alternately narrow and wide-r. The surface alternated between packed gravel (almost paved feeling) to loose gravel; with lots of leaves. I was very glad to not be trying this trail on my road bike. There were several muddy areas that my new bike handled like a charm. As we traveled north, there were fewer people, but it was still a well-used trail. I was freezing. I decided I need earmuffs that fit under my helmet. And gloves that fit over my riding gloves. But, we were delighted by the trail, so we kept pedaling, hoping to warm up.

View of Big Gunpowder Falls from Trail

View of Big Gunpowder Falls from Trail


The trees were not in full autumn glory, but there was some nice tree color. The part of the trail we rode was probably 90% shaded. We entered Gunpowder Falls State Park and spent a good deal of time with the Big Gunpowder Falls in view. It was so nice. Just pretty scenery and no sounds, but those in nature.

A Sunny Spot Along the Trail
A Sunny Spot Along the Trail

 

Benches and picnic tables dot the trail. We stopped a couple times in sunny spots to warm up and enjoy the views. There are rest areas with port-a-potties also along the route.

We went about 8.5 miles, just past Monkton, before turning around and heading back. This is another one of those long, beautiful trails that had us planning our next ride. John was so taken with this ride when he rode it a month or so ago, it was one of the main reasons he bought me the new bike. I agree with him. It is a great trail. So far. We will be back to try to get to Pennsylvania next.

Glimpse of Sun and Fall Colors

Glimpse of Sun and Fall Colors

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Water Biking, Canalside, Buffalo, NY

Bike Trail Views and Our Reviews

Canalside, Buffalo, NY   

Lighthouse View from the Water, Buffalo, NY

Lighthouse View from the Water, Buffalo, NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our summer Empty Nest/Retirement Party visit to Buffalo was such a great weekend away for us, as it was our chance to visit Buffalo’s redeveloped downtown waterfront, Canalside, in warm weather. We loved it in the winter, (Click on the link for that post), but I knew from social media that there was a lot more to do in the summer. But what, you may ask yourself, was I most interested in doing during this visit? I wanted to ride the water bikes! On the canal (which is the Buffalo River)! And, now I had my chance.

The Water Bike!

The Water Bike!

We arrived at Canalside at 10:30 AM on a Friday morning. The weather was perfect! It was a bright and sunny warm day. We had no trouble finding the free street parking, which was a delight to us, as quasi out-of-towners. We parked and wandered over to the waterfront. Not really. Actually, I excitedly power-walked along until I found the water bike rental booth. We initially planned to ride the tandem water bike (They have a tandem water bike!); however, it was already being used. It took zero seconds for me to decide whether to rent two separate bikes, which were available immediately.

Me on the Water Bike

Me on the Water Bike

I couldn’t wait to get out on the water. It took me a few minutes to get the hang of steering, but we were cruising down the canal in no time. We first set off toward the Lighthouse, which is the furthest point you are directed to go with the rentals in that direction. That is where the Buffalo River meets the Niagara River. My strong sense of self-preservation led me to confirm the location of Niagara Falls, so I could stay far away. I had no desire to get swept up in the current and end up going over the falls on the water bike.  

 

 

 

John on the Water Bike

John on the Water Bike

We pedaled out almost to the lighthouse, but there was a swift current that gave us more of a workout than either of us was expecting. We had paid for an hour rental, and we wanted to get down the river going in the other direction, too. So, we U-turned and started back. There was plenty to see while pedaling, including lots of friendly people on the shore and in other watercraft, who waved at us as we passed them. I loved that. I felt very royal.

I was thrilled to pass the General Mills factory and smell the Cheerios.

The View of the General Mills Plant, Buffalo, NY

The View of the General Mills Plant, Buffalo, NY

It seemed everyone had been downtown and smelled them, but me. But, it did make me hungry. We continued on to the “Six Pack,” which is definitely something to see.

 

View from the Water of the Labatt Blue Grain Silos

View from the Water of the Labatt Blue Grain Silos

I needed more time to get to the other end, but we were coming up on our hour. So, we reluctantly started back to the launching site. It was a blast! I loved it. John enjoyed it too. We both felt like we got a pretty decent workout, too. We couldn’t wait to do it again, so we didn’t. The next morning we met one of John’s sisters and her daughter to water bike the canal one more time.

More Views from the Water

More Views from the Water

Pretty Views of the City from the Water

Pretty Views of the City from the Water

Nothing like spreading the joy! We can’t wait to go back next year.  

 

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