Today was one of the most broad/extensive/varied rides of the entire trip. Why? Because for the first time, I biked along a “Rails to Trails” path (more on that shortly), took my bike aboard a commuter train to get through downtown Baltimore, then biked at night on a path (no cars) with the light of the moon guiding my way.
As I’ve said in other postings, I usually am on my bike around 10am-11am, as before I ride, I’m writing a blog about the previous day, updating my social media, editing pics/film, calling to confirm appointments, calling to set up accommodations, etc. It just eats away at my time. Honestly, more often than not, biking is the easy part of the project. Today was no different as I was out the door about 11am. Bob and Sarah were great hosts, and I especially want to thank Bob for his showing me around D.C., Georgetown, and Bethesda on our bicycles yesterday. It was truly a treat.
As soon as I was out of the neighborhood, I connected with the local trail system that Bob and I took to get to D.C. yesterday. This time however, I went northward to Baltimore, with my final destination being York, Pennsylvania — about 90 miles away — where Terry and I would be hosted by a local couple via Warm Showers. The local trail system (the Anacostia Tributary Trail) connected me on a nice ride through forest and alongside creeks on my way up to the next trail, The Light Trail. This trail connected me to Baltimore, and at one point, I was biking along side a grassy hill that looked down towards the Baltimore/Washington Airport. Once in the Baltimore city limits, I lifted my bike up into a commuter train which took me to the other side of Baltimore city limits where I could hook up onto the NCRR (North Central Rail Road Trail) and ride all the way (40 miles) to York, PA. The NCRR was one of the many “Rails to Trails” bike paths found throughout the U.S. These trails were formed as a result of the consolidation of the rail industry back in the 60’s and 70’s which led to the closure of a number of uneconomical lines. Some were maintained as short line railways, but many others were abandoned. They were funded and developed via the state and federal government to be transformed into trails. Some can stretch for over 200 miles. For me to actually go 40 miles on a path dedicated to bikes, all the way to York…that’s just damn cool.
It was hard to comprehend that the trail on which I was riding through forest and bush would continue for more than 40 miles. It just seemed it would end soon, near a town perhaps and dead end into an actual road. That wasn’t the case, as it continued extending itself. Then history presented itself once I entered Pennsylvania. This stretch of the NCRR was known as the Freedom Trail, the Underground Railroad Route, meant to give riders a route representative of the historic freedom trail. While there is no singular route that slaves took to freedom, it’s definitely a route representative of the freedom trail that also went through areas of historic significance. The entire route essentially became it’s own historical marker. I made so many stops to really take in the area, that it became very late — and dark. This time it was ok, as I didn’t have to deal with cars. Tonight was a wonder, as there was a full-moon — which guided me along the path, even through thick foliage. There was no one else, and the experience was surreal — especially when, about ten miles before York, there was a field that opened up in front of me. Thick fog lay low on the field and with the full moon shining down on it…I felt as though I was in a transformed environment. It would have been appropriate to hear “Funeral for a Friend” (by Elton John). Listen to the first minute, and imagine what I just described.
Finally, to my right I saw in the distance some light. Although I had no idea, I estimated after all my biking that it was probably York. I went off the trail and after a few minutes, arrived into civilization. I saw a sign “York College” near a traffic signal. I had made it. It was 9:30pm. I was so tired and hungry. I went just another two miles to our host’s home, where they welcomed me with a home made dinner and my own bed for the night. Thank you.