Capital 2 Capital Trail Day 2

Okay. I believe I have recovered enough from yesterday to actually offer a summary here.

On this map, the place we started is the white block text area next to the blue-colored stretch of the trail (Chickahominy Riverfront Park Trailhead) at the lower right of the photo. The first thing upon leaving the park and heading west is to cross the Chickahominy River. At the far end of the map (upper left) is Richmond and we made it to MP 51.2, by the canal. We did not go into the heart of the city.
We arose at 6A to be completely ready to ride by 9, when we were to meet Mary and Tom (from Canada) at the upper driveway of the campground, where it intersects the Cap2Cap Trail. There were several things we had to see to beyond biking gear: adjusting everything that helps keep Roomba cool during the sunny day, remembering to get some snacks (we were unsure exactly where/when we’d be fueling this ride along the way), putting on sunscreen and spraying bug dope, filling our water bottles, taking anything that might melt out of the car for the day, assuring the cooler would stay in the shade during the day, final pit stops (amongst a veritable run on the facilities, i.e, 3 toilets and 3 showers, from all the many, many peeps who’d come into the park to camp the night before), etc.
And we had to eat breakfast. Not the greatest time of my day to consume food, but I did anyway, despite it being too early for me to be hungry. 

Yowl is ready to ride!

When we finally headed up to our meeting spot we realized that hundreds and hundreds of other people were gathered, parked in the day use areas, to bicycle along the trail. There were club groups, triathlon trainers, Boy Scouts, and various random riders unloading their bikes, taking exercise runs, getting instructions from ride managers and I-don’t-know-what-all. Hundreds.

When Mary and Tom arrived (they had ridden from Jamestown’s “Mile 0” having been dropped off there by Alan), Mary wanted to immerse herself into all that spandex and sprockets to use the facilities. Tom wanted to see our trailer, so we rode him back to show it off.

By the time we returned to the trail, many of the groups had already left, including the Boy Scouts. So we began around 9:15, and the first thing one does headed from here west toward Richmond is climb over the bridge spanning the Chickahominy River. Happily, there is a dedicated bike path for that, too — but it is quite narrow, and another group or two of “rabbits” (fast riders who often race—these appeared to be in training for an event of some sort) came along behind us.

As the day progressed, we experienced fits and starts of rabbits passing in pace lines, or the odd racing bike coming or going, but for the most part, the rest of the individuals and groups we saw along the trail were families and leisure riders like us. The morning was splendid: sunny and cool. The four of us rode a decent but not fast pace through cornfields, oat fields, past homes large and small, and many instances of tunneling through the shady forests along Rt. 5. 

Our first mission for the morning was to link up with Michael and Kathryn, who were meeting us along the way, riding (with their bikes in tow) in the van with Alan. Our first break stop was the Charles City Courthouse, where we thought we might link up with them, but when Mary called, Alan was surprised that we had gotten that far so quickly, and suggested we head on along the trail and he’d meet us a bit later.

At the courthouse, there are pretty old buildings, a visitor center, some interpretive signage, and a convenience station. We rested a bit, took advantage of the facilities, and moved on.

Catching a shady rest at the Charles City Courthouse complex.
Yowl poses in front of one of the pretty buildings.

Because our second mission for the morning was to assure that Tom would meet Alan and the van in time for Tom to get to the Richmond airport by noon-ish, so he could catch his flight back to Calgary, we increased our pace a little. It was still a cool, easy ride at this point (about 20 or so miles for Mary and Tom, about 13 for Jack and me).

We linked up with Alan, Michael, and Kathryn slightly farther along, at a gravel road. Alan saw us pedaling along, honked, and pulled across the trail (maybe around MP 28 – since the mileposts started where Mary and Tom started, they indicate their total mileage. Subtract 7 miles to get mine and Jack’s totals, where I reference MPs) and onto this road so we could gather up Michael and Kathryn on our journey. This might have been a bit before 10A.

Alan assured Tom we could make it to a nice park about 10-15 miles ahead by or around 11:30, which would be plenty of time for him to get to the airport by noon. So we carried on.

Seen along the way. Any other time, I might have stopped to add to the sculpture. I love rock balancing.

Around MP 32, we ran into another Bike Virginia crowd, headed east, opposite from our direction. We halted to hug necks and have a visit. Rosemary warned us that ahead on our path was a lot of chaff from the storm a couple nights ago, and since it was mostly shady, that some of the footing was hazardous.

As Mary and Jack chatted with Rosemary, Nancy and Lisa (?), Kathryn realized we were still 8 miles from our destination, 4-mile Creek Park. The clock was ticking, so she took off, Tom followed, and I was not too far behind. We kept a pretty steady pace, and shortly, Jack overtook us. Later Kathryn said that Jack “saved her,” because she was wearing out, leading Tom to the park at that pace (she’s had some health issues, otherwise she’d have been easily able to go the distance).

We got there (MP 40) and I recognized the coolers Alan had had in the back of the van (noticed when we stopped to get Michael and Kathryn) arranged on a picnic table. Leave it to me to find food on a bike ride.

Alan rode through with the van, hopped out, and asked us to help ourselves to lunch while he took Tom to the airport. Before they left, there might have been a small amount of Canadian spirits in the glasses they toasted to their friendship.

After a delicious lunch Alan had gathered from The Carrot Tree (including enormous carrot cake muffins), we set off again toward Richmond. It was in the 12:30 range when we began the last 11 miles into the city.

Somewhere around MP 48 or 49, the trail paralleled a very busy road. There was some climbing to be done, and trail use increased along this stretch, so close to the city. We topped a hill and got a nice vista of the Richmond—the city of my ancestors (and living relatives), the Capitol of Virginia.

From there, it was just a few miles to the final point, although I understand that there is some urban trail-riding designated to get visitors by bike into the heart of the city. We arrived at the part of the trail running along the canal, which is bordered by some very upscale (reclaimed) housing and warehouse areas. Folks living in the “River Lofts” building had individual garden plots along the trail and it was quite lovely.

But we stopped not at the final trail head, which was busy with cars and visitors and bikes and every manner of user and equipment (Great Shiplock Park). We went on, to the actual Trail Terminus, which is a bit farther along the canal, and you ride under the elevated train tracks for a while, past the Holocost Museum, among other destinations.

Warehouse smokestack and roof sculpture seen from under the elevated rail tracks headed to the Terminus.

The terminus itself is under both rail and interstate overpasses, and offers sculptures, a map, seating, the area where canal boats are staged for tours, and a nice place for ducks and geese (there were a lot of droppings all over everything).

We made it!

Here are some of the scenes down by the canal:

Beautiful Queen Anne’s Lace growing next to the canal.
Canal boat ride, and you can see the elevated rail tracks parallel to the canal.
Interstate overpass.
Doors to the city.
Canal boat dock.
Interstates, sculptures, walls, lighting and Jack & Michael at the terminus.
Canal lock into the city.

At this point, we decided we felt good enough to ride back to Chickahominy Riverfront Park. Mary and Michael decided to explore further into the city.

Both of us needed water, so Jack and I rode no more than about 2 miles climbing up out of town to a 7-11 store where we shared a Gatorade on site and bought a couple big bottles of water, one to refresh our bike bottles, and one to carry. Heck, it was only another 9 miles to our earlier lunch stop at Four Mile Creek Picnic area, our next goal, and headed on.

By this hour—maybe 2-2:30PM—it was terrifically hot. We were drinking frequently, and there is not a tremendous amount of cover/shade between the city and 4-Mile Creek. When we arrived at the picnic area, there was a Eagle Scout structure with benches and a roof (shade) available and we took it with great thanks to the Scout who built it. Our computers said we were on about mile 60 for the day. We rested a long time at the park, and took advantage of the single port-a-pot within a 20-mile radius. Only about 33 to go, to get to Roomba.

Blissful shade at mile 60, and we split a Cliff nut-and-(melted) chocolate bar.

Still, we were feeling pretty fit. Our big leg muscles were only beginning to notice how difficult it was to start up again after stopping. 

Maybe it was the heat. Maybe we were delirious. But we calculated our position (60 miles for the day) and added the estimated miles back to camp (33-ish) and realized we’d be at 93 miles on the day! Surely we could not stop a mere 7 miles short of 100 on the day, could we?

Jack and I have never ridden “A Century” before. Where Jack has come close on several occasions, I have never tried, nor have I had any ghost of a desire to ride 100 miles in a day. 

But heck. Once you’re miserable, sore, tired, and (I have to admit) delirious, there’s a point beyond which you’re not going to get any more miserable, sore, tired or delirious. So we pressed on, imagining we wouldn’t feel too awful as we pedaled past our campsite for another 3.5 miles toward Jamestown, to turn around and go back for the 7 miles that would total 100.

Okay, we were wrong on that imagining. But I digress.

By the time we arrived at our next goal—breaking up a long ride into manageable pieces helps a rider not get overwhelmed—a place where we knew we could fill our water bottles (Charles City Courthouse—about mile 80 on the day) and empty our bladders (a good sign that we were drinking enough water), it was in the 4-5 o’clock range. You might note that we were pedaling much more slowly by this point in our trek, having taken about 2 hours to go ~20 miles (10 miles/hr).

The trail’s shade improved quite a lot between 4-Mile Creek park and the Courthouse. There were some climbs, but another plus was that it was quite level for the majority of the ride along there. And when you enter Charles City County, while there are some significant climbs near the county line, again, there is a lot of shade and a lot of level trail.

The sun was still high and hot, and we all sought shade.

We spent quite a long time sitting in the shade there. We both ate a granola bar, and drank a full bicycle bottle of water each while we sat, topping them up again before we left. About 13 miles to the Chicka. Riverfront; about 20 miles required for the 100.

Nothing to do but put one rotation of the pedals after another.

It was terribly hard to cycle past “home.” It was 6:30 by this time, and both of us were rather wobbly on the tires—not so much that we were reckless or in danger. I simply found that I lost concentration pretty easily. We were both talking less and noticing our surroundings less, concentrating on the only things we could still concentrate on: one pedal; another; repeat.

One thing we did notice, however, was a small red vehicle sitting on the grassy verge between the road and the Trail. His direction was opposite the lane closest to the trail, and we could not figure how he got in that position. As we passed, the silly driver appeared to want to get himself out of there, but he had to cross into a deep ditch that the mowers avoided—and with this small car with next to zero clearance!

He got his right front tire into the ditch when a police car that was driving past noticed his odd position and flipped on his lights and pulled over to the opposite side of the road. By then we were out of sight of the situation. We saw another police car headed toward the first as we pedaled on toward Jamestown.

I mention this only to give you the idea of my mental state. Once we got to our turn-around point (we went all the way to MP 3 so we didn’t have to guesstimate half-miles), wanting to see what the outcome of all this fuss and bother along the Trail was one of the primary things that kept me going with only 4 miles to go.

As we were headed back to camp, I was disappointed to note that everything seemed to be resolved when I made it to the spot where I THOUGHT the vehicle had been. But ahead, I saw the flashing red-and-blue lights, and I knew I had misjudged the spot. Yay! Voyeur that I am, I felt it was all worth it to see what had been going on there. As we neared the red car, I could not for the life of me understand how the vehicle got there. If it had run off the road, it had done so very gently, as there were no skid or slide marks anywhere. 

I suspect the idiot turned onto the trail instead of the road for whatever reason, and got far enough from one of the “No Motorized Vehicles” signs where side roads and driveways intersect the Trail, that he decided he couldn’t back up all the way to his entry point (without risk of running over a cyclist) and was trying to cross the verge to the road. 

By the time we arrived back at that point, the guy and two policemen were on the Trail, and as we slowed to cycle past, I heard one of the officers say, “Okay I’m going to give the instruction again: I want you to take nine steps forward and then . . . ”

At that point, we moved out of earshot, but it was obvious they were giving an inebriation test to the driver. That might explain a lot. Awful glad no one was hurt.

We got back to Roomba around 7:30PM. Lordy what a long day. 

It was all we could do to get a shower and eat something before falling into bed. Jack came back from the showers at about 9PM and asked if I had gotten thousands of sunset photos as the sun turned the sky all sorts of shades of red and purple. But no. I had noticed, but just couldn’t possibly be bothered to take even one photo. I know now why folks call it A Century: because it will only happen in my time on this spinning globe once in 100 years.

Cycle Stats June 18, 2016

  • Ride time: 7:25:43
  • Stopped time: 3:26:48
  • Distance 100.94 miles (Jack got 101 and change)
  • Average speed: 13.59 mph
  • Fastest speed: 27.14 (Jack got ~29 — inertial is a terrible thing)
  • Ascent: 793
  • Descent: 756

Yowl took a nap for the last 20 miles.

Today, Sunday, we slept in, continued drinking a lot of water, ate a late brunch, and lounged around in the screened in porch with fans blowing on us all day. It’s hotter today than yesterday, reaching 88 degrees today. The campground is emptying out of RVs and loud people.

Still feel drained and tired. But hey—we did A Century. One more thing off the bucket list! Right? Am I right?

Training for Nova Scotia

Our third adventure with our wonderful camping trailer, Roomba, is a prelude to our Big Trip to Nova Scotia and the bicycle tour we’ve been planning for over a year.

We also wanted one more trip in Roomba with the doggies, since we’re not going to see them for a month. This idea conflicts with our intended training schedule: to head down to the New River Trail, our “hometown” Rails to Trails conversion, and ride it stem-to-stern on back-to-back days. This places our butts in the saddles for about 47 miles, which translates into a 5-hour day with a lunch stop. Times two.

So we didn’t want to leave the dogs in the Roomba or at home; nor with a kennel — so we conspired with friends to have a group camping experience at the New River Campground in Fries, Virginia (it’s pronounced “freeze” for you non-swva-ers). Gloria & Kerry like my dogs, and have one of their own, so Glo agreed to be the dog-sitter over the two days of our being on the trail. In addition, Jack and Martha recently got a camper van and they got pursuaded to join the fun and come with.

On Sunday afternoon we all arrived and hooked up and began sharing adult beverages, lies, and tall tales.

Monday (today) was the first of Jack’s and my cycling adventures. We got rolling around 9:30, and loaded the bikes on the car hitch for the drive from Fries to Pulaski, the opposite terminus for the trail (it also goes off toward Galax, but that ‘s a spur. At “Fries Junction” you can choose to head right to Fries or left to Galax — if we’d done both spurs, the total distance would have been approx 50 miles).

We left the dogs in Glo’s competent care and drove to within 2 miles of the downtown Pulaski terminus and began our trek in a sunny, only slightly overcast morning about 10:30.


We sincerely love the New River Trail and we’ve spent many miles traversing it. The scenery is quite fine and varied, and when we’re running our training rides there we try to not only stay in the saddle for many hours at a stretch, but also keep our pace higher than what we can manage when we’re riding the BRP. But we charged our panniers with lunch and rain gear and set off.

As we were trundling right along we were surprised to see fellow Floydians on the trail! Penny, Sue, and Shirley were taking a break along the trail between Draper and Hiawassee. We hit the breaks hard and circled back to say howdy. We chatted a while about bicycles, and places we ride, and those pesky pressure points where the human body meets the mechanical bicycle. Funny to run into folks from the old hometown a good 40 miles from home.


We made our way along the trail, across trestles and through tunnels until we arrived at Foster Falls, where we exited the trail, found a picnic table, and had our lunch. From about 12:30 until our finish time of 1:00, we watched dark clouds mound in the sky and just hoped that they would be moving toward Pulaski instead of toward Fries.


As we began the after-lunch portion of our ride, some thunder sounded, and a few drops began to fall. Rain had hit the trail earlier, we could tell from the footing and puddles. But we still had hopes that we might not have to endure.

WRONG. No more than about 5 miles into the afternoon, the heavens upened and began truly dumping on us. IT got dark, and the wind shifted to be in our faces. 

Nevertheless, it was not cold. So I never had to break out the rain coat. As Jack says: “You’re as wet in the first 45 seconds as you’ll get all day, so why bother?”

We escaped the deluge at Ivanhoe, long enough to clear our glasses and wipe the sweat rinsing down our faces and (mostly) into our eyes. The rain let up a tiny bit and we set off again.

Passed the Shot Tower, as Interstate 77 traffic roared overhead, and we knew it was exactly 15 miles to Fries Junction. It was along this stretch that Jack began experiencing mud build-up under his fenders and between his rims and his break pads. He began having to stop and remove the interference on his wheels’ ability to turn (and his breaks’ ability to stop him). I managed to keep rolling and arrived through the dark and the wet at Fries Junction about 10 minutes before Jack made it. 

We had a bit of energy boost, drank some water, and then set off again for the final 5.5 miles to Fries. The rain finally let up from deluge status to sprinkle as we climbed up to Main Street and wound our way back to the campground. Then it began raining again; stopped long enough for me to get into the shower; but was pissing down again after I got out and had dry clothes on for the first time in 3 hours of hard, soggy, riding.

The Hiltons made us all dinner, which we enjoyed tremendously (we provided a bit of an easy appetizer of frozen shrimp and cocktail sauce). And as I write this, Jack and I are inside Roomba with the doggies, listening to it rain on the roof again; wondering how much fun we’re going to have riding again in the rain tomorrow, back to pick up the car in Pulaski. 

At least we will be riding with the flow of the river this time, so the grade is generally downhill.

Training for a Fall Cycle Tour

As a small portion of our training for an upcoming cycling tour of Nova Scotia, Jack and I headed to the New River Trail today. The NRT is our “hometown” Rails to Trails conversion, and one of Virginia’s state parks. We frequently head down to Galax, the Shot Tower, Fries, or Foster Falls to head north or south along the trail, which we feel is one of the best in Virginia.

The section of the Trail we rode today was in good shape, with the notable exception of 4 to 6 miles from right at Austinville through climbing past Billsby Dam (heading south). The rough road was due to horse traffic, whose hooves chop up the cinder trail terribly. 

Now, I’m not in any way saying that horses should not be allowed on the Trail. As an ex-horse rider myself, I get having a lovely place free from traffic where you can ride. But I really wish the riders were more respectful of other users and kept their mounts closer to the verges where possible. Certainly, there are stretches of this trail where there are no verges at all, between the cliffs on one side and the New River on the other. I get that. 

And at the road crossings, where we’re all funneled through the anti-vehicle “gates” there’s no choice but to have the hooves hit the trail.

But I wish some small consideration for other users more widely pervaded the equestrians. For example: the Trail provides mount/dismount places at each side of the trail where it follows over trestles, so riders can mind the rules and walk their mounts across the trestles. Judging by the extreme chop in the middle of the trail at each end of every trestle along this heavy horse traffic stretch of the trail, not many riders remove to the mount/dismount areas. Instead, they stop their horses, and the horses dance and circle, creating virtual troughs in front of the trestles.

These are really rough on bicycle riders, as are all the chopped-up lengths of the trail where discourteous riders insist on riding abreast across the trail instead of using the edges where possible. I wonder if one solution might be for equestrians to pay a surcharge for the maintenance required on the trail due to their “vehicles” leaving behind more damage. Just a thought. And please be clear that I do NOT advocate disallowing horses on Rail Trails. 

But the stretches for about four miles where we began, at the Shot Tower, until Austinville; and then past Billsby Dam all the way to Fries Junction were blissful. Overall, in a 30-mile ride, to have between 8 and 12 miles (hitting the rough stretches headed both ways) is not terrible — and it was a lovely day along the river. We saw canoeists on the River, and other riders of all ages, and butterflies, birds, and flowers.

And this was the highest-mileage day we’ve ridden since we began our 2015 riding in about March/April. Nice that we went 10 miles over our “long” ride-days; however, our “normal” training rides are along the hilly Blue Ridge Parkway. So it was great to extend the time in the saddle without having to climb the several 2-mile mountains we’d have to traverse if we rode the same 30 miles along our normal, nearer route.

Next up: soon we’re going to take the Roomba down into southern VA to train along another Rails to Trails Conversion, and I’ll report on that adventure soon. We’re also talking about camping near the New River Trail (the campsites there don’t allow RV campers) long enough to cycle along the full 54 miles of the Trail two days back-to-back. That’s always been a great way for us to catalog lots of time in the saddle, and to test the level of our training right before we leave on a big cycling trip like that we’re heading for this fall.