Winter Dreams: Coasts and Shores

January, the most useless month. I wish I could sleep through it and wake up when the crocuses are finally nosing up through the grass. Here in Bethesda, the foot of snow that fell just over a week ago is mostly gone. The temperature bottomed out at 10 degrees the other night and is rising back into the 50s tomorrow, bringing with it more rain of course. It’s January all right. The midwinter blahs have set in.

Smithsonian museums and national parks are still closed, thanks to our ungovern-ment, so I haven’t been volunteering. In the meantime, I knead dough into rolls that will warm the kitchen and make the house smell good. I make plans to remodel my workbench and to build an armchair from the pieces of an old wooden couch, once it’s warm enough to haul my circular saw outside. I sort through drawers and folders and reorganize stuff, my go-to activity when I’m bored. I check out book after book from the local public libraries. I plan trips, some of which I’ll never take, but I can dream.

On my computer desktop, a full-screen image I’ve taken of a coast or shore over the last dozen years transports me to somewhere else. I have at least 90 images loaded into a slideshow that washes a new view across the screen every few hours. For the sake of something new to do over the past couple of days, I gathered a few of them here. After all, it’s January, a time for dreaming.

The Mid-Atlantic

The Southeast and Florida

The Pacific

David Romanowski, 2019

Lake Champlain by Bicycle

In mid-August, five of us traveled to Burlington, Vermont, for a 2½-day tour around (and across) Lake Champlain: Tad and Lea from New York, Barb and Michael from Pennsylvania, and me from Maryland. We rendezvoused at Tad and Lea’s home north of Albany, New York, and then drove to Burlington.

Photo credits: Tad [TD], Michael [MJ], Barb [BP].

The Starlight Inn

Tad had researched and arranged this trip, and his motel choice in Colchester (just north of Burlington) for our first and last nights was a winner. The Starlight Inn is a brand new motel operated by the owner of the Sunset Drive-In Theater, located right across the parking lot. Each of the motel’s 11 rooms has a different Hollywood theme.

After settling in, we biked less than 2 miles to the Island Line Trail and rode south into Burlington and back.

The Island Line Trail

The next morning, we packed our bikes and headed back to the Island Line Trail for our overnight ride. This time we headed north on the trail out onto the long, narrow causeway arcing out over Lake Champlain. Our destination for the day: Rouses Point, New York, about 46 miles away.

The Island Line Trail follows the route of a railroad that once served Burlington and the Lake Champlain Islands. The 14-mile trail is interrupted just short of its northern end by a 200-foot gap in the causeway over the lake, where there used to be a bridge to allow boats to pass through. For most of the year a small ferry now carries cyclists and walkers across the gap.

The Lake Champlain Islands

Once off the causeway, we biked up a series of islands and a peninsula that bisect Lake Champlain, one of the most popular cycling areas in the state. The route Tad had mapped out kept us along the shore to maximize the scenic views. Except for a few stretches of bumpy unpaved road, the going was easy, the hills gentle, and the riding along main routes graced with wide shoulders.

Our destination for the night was the Anchorage Motel in Rouses Point, New York. The motel had clearly seen better days, but it was the only one around, right on the lake, and within walking distance of the town’s few restaurants. We amused ourselves by reading the worst of the TripAdvisor comments on the motel, while reassuring ourselves that it wasn’t quite that bad.

The Return Trip via New York

After breakfast at Rouses Point’s popular Lakeside Coffee cafe, we headed back toward Burlington, biking into a fairly stiff wind most of the way. But the weather had been beautiful for the entire trip, so a little wind wasn’t too much to bear.

Our total distance for the entire 2½-day trip was about 108 miles: the 20-mile ride into Burlington and back, about 46 miles through Vermont to Rouses Point, and about 42 biking miles (plus ferry) via New York back to the Starlight Inn.

Back at the Starlight Inn

While everyone else went to the drive-in after dinner to watch movies in the evening, I stayed behind at the motel to relax, work on my notes, and enjoy in silence the images on the big screens across the way. Just seeing movie screens flickering in the night in the nearby field was a relaxing and—for the baby boomers among us—somewhat nostalgic sight.

David Romanowski, 2016

Different Strokes: 20 Bicycle Tours | # 3

Bike Overnights

About a year ago, the Adventure Cycling Association introduced Bike Overnights, a blog featuring readers’ stories and photos about their own brief bicycle adventures. Adventure Cycling describes a bike overnight as “a short getaway by bike, involving at least one night away from home.”

When I was looking for a term to describe the short bicycle trips that groups of cycling friends and I planned and executed over the last four years, I thought “bike overnights” worked as well as anything else, so I adopted that term. I devote this third “Different Strokes” to those half-dozen trips.

Rest stop on "The Farm, Fruits, and Forest Tour” in Pennsylvania.

A rest stop on “The Farm, Fruits, and Forest Tour” in Pennsylvania.

Three of those bike overnights were planned in conjunction with Bike Florida’s annual spring tour. In each case, a group of us got together in Florida before the tour and did some exploring by bike on our own. For the rest of the trips, we gathered in other places for a couple of days of cycling.

An obvious advantage of a bike overnight is that you can schedule and plan it whenever you want and cancel if the weather turns bad or other issues arise. But it may still require considerable advance planning, travel to the base site, and lodging or camping reservations. On several of our trips, rain was either a threat or a minor inconvenience, but it didn’t wash away any of our plans. The length of our rides each day was modest, often 35 to 40 miles, sometimes less, which allowed us plenty of time to relax and enjoy the ride.

Pinellas Trail, Florida

The group in Dunedin.

The group in Dunedin. [Photo: Tad Darling]

Base: Seminole, FL
Riders: 9
Biking Days: 2
Daily Biking Mileages: 38, 38

Before Bike Florida in 2013, a group of us rendezvoused at a friend of a friend’s home in Seminole, a couple of blocks from the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail. The trail extends about 44 miles from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs. It is one of the best known and most heavily used rail trails in Florida.

On our first day, we biked the southern half of the Pinellas Trail and explored St. Petersburg’s downtown, waterfront, and lovely nearby neighborhoods. As a bonus, race cars were whining down the closed-off streets near the waterfront, practicing for the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. I had never gotten so amazingly close to a speeding race car!

The next day we planned to bike the rest of the Pinellas Trail to Tarpon Springs. But along the way we decided instead to detour off the trail near Dunedin onto the causeway that led out to Honeymoon Island State Park, which occupies a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. We ate lunch there and enjoyed the park’s unspoiled beach. Tarpon Springs would wait another day.

Amelia Island, Florida

2014-03-21 15.51.08 (2) (Medium)

The sand dunes near American Beach.

Base: Fernandina Beach, FL
Riders: 3
Biking Days: 1
Daily Biking Mileage: 38

Before my next two Bike Florida tours, I linked up with two friends from the Pinellas Trail group: Tad and Lea from New York State. In 2014 we rendezvoused at Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island in the very northeastern corner of Florida. We booked a suite at the Hampton Inn and spent a full day exploring the island by bicycle.

We biked around the Fernandina Beach historic district; visited Fort Clinch State Park, with its canopy road, Civil War fort, and half-mile long fishing pier; and biked down the coast to American Beach, a historic African American community and the site of the highest sand dunes in Florida. We returned via an inland route that took us through a mid-island nature preserve.

As we wandered around Fernandina Beach after dinner in the evening, we came across a carnival in a local park, an unexpected treat and a nice way to end the day.

Pinellas Trail, Florida

The view from the visitor center at Honeymoon Island State Park.

The view from the visitor center at Honeymoon Island State Park.

Base: Dunedin, FL
Riders: 3
Biking Days: 2
Daily Biking Mileages: 35, 25

This past spring, Sue and I rendezvoused with Tad and Lea at the Palm Court Motel in Dunedin, across the street from the Pinellas Trail and not far from the causeway to Honeymoon Island.

An unexpected health issue sidelined one of us, but the others enjoyed revisiting the Pinellas Trail. On the first day, we biked north and finally made it to Tarpon Springs. Later that day we also revisited Honeymoon Island State Park. The next day, we headed south to Largo, where we visited two sites just off the trail: the Florida Botanical Garden and Heritage Village.

While the Pinellas is a fine trail, it could use more maps and signage posted along the way to direct you to nearby attractions. We had a difficult time finding the Sponge Docks area in Tarpon Springs, a major tourist draw, and we would never have known about the other two sites had I not read about them beforehand.

Eastern Shore, Maryland

Riding the ferry from Oxford to Bellevue.

On the Oxford-Bellevue ferry. [Photo: Tad Darling]

Base: Easton, MD
Riders: 5-6
Biking Days: 3
Daily Biking Mileages: 10, 40, 25

Tad and Lea and two other friends from our cycling network—Barb and Michael from Pennsylvania—invited me and Sue to meet up with them for another bike overnight. In late October 2014 we rendezvoused at a Comfort Inn on the outskirts of the historic town of Easton, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Soon after driving across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on our way there, Sue and I stopped on Kent Island to bike the short (5 miles) but lovely Cross Island Trail.

The next day the group biked the circle route linking Easton, Oxford, and St. Michaels, one of the best known and most scenic Eastern Shore cycling routes. We explored all three towns, and the sailors among us especially enjoyed visiting the Cutts & Case Shipyard in tiny Oxford. We all enjoyed taking the ferry from Oxford to Bellevue and then continued on to St. Michaels and back to Easton.

The following day we biked on Tilghman Island (really more of a peninsula than an island). As Sue and I drove home the next day, our friends stayed longer and went on to explore Hoopers Island (an actual island) a bit farther south.

Vermont and New York

Biking through the Vermont countryside.

The Vermont countryside. [Photo: Tad Darling]

Base: Burnt Hills, NY
Riders: 5-6
Biking Days: 3
Daily Biking Mileages: 45, 40, 17

In August 2015, the same group from the Eastern Shore tour rendezvoused at Tad and Lea’s home north of Albany, New York. The next day, we drove to Middlebury, Vermont, and biked a loop route from there to the Lake Champlain Bridge at Crown Point, New York, and back via Vergennes, Vermont. The route Tad had mapped out rewarded us with spectacular vistas, rolling hills, and classic New England towns and countryside.

We returned to New York and did two more cycling day trips. First, we explored the rural countryside near Tad and Lea’s home. Then the next day, we biked along a short section of the Erie Canal and through Schenectady’s Stockade Historic District.

After our Burnt Hills bike overnight, Sue and I went traveling on our own for a few days. We rode the 11-mile Burlington Bike Path, which extends from downtown Burlington, Vermont, along the lakeshore and out into Lake Champlain on a narrow causeway. We biked the 5-mile Stowe Recreation Path through the countryside near Stowe, Vermont. Finally, we biked the 11-mile Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, which runs from Adams, Massachusetts, south toward Pittsfield.

Southern Pennsylvania

The contents of the welcome bag provided to each tour participant.

The contents of the “goodie bag” provided to each tour participant.

Base: Carlisle, PA
Riders: 4
Biking Days: 2
Daily Biking Mileages: 40, 38

My Pennsylvania cycling friend Dana got especially  creative when planning his bike overnight. In July 2013 he invited me and two other friends in our cycling network to his farm just north of Gettysburg for what he called “Bike-o-Rama.”

When I arrived at his house, I found a tour sign-in sheet; route cue sheets; a “goodie bag” filled with snacks, home-grown veggies, and ride souvenirs; and a custom-designed ride t-shirt! His son followed us on our ride in Dana’s pickup truck, which served as a sag wagon and lunch wagon. Dana’s wife Andy provided medical and meal support back at the farm.

On the first day, “The Great Battlefield Ride,” we biked from Dana’s farm to Gettysburg National Military Park, where we rode around the battlefield and then loaded the bikes onto the pickup and drove home. The next day, “The Farm, Fruits, and Forest Tour,” we biked around the countryside near Carlisle. Despite occasional drizzle, we had two fine days riding over the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania.

David Romanowski, 2016