Most states have "Scenic Byways," highway routes that might take a bit longer, but go through nice scenery and natural areas. Oregon has something a step better: Scenic Bikeways! There are 12 Scenic Bikeways across the state, ranging from 24 to 180 miles.
Arguably the most spectacular of these routes is McKenzie Pass. Crossing the Oregon Cascades, McKenzie Pass starts in Central Oregon's high desert with sagebrush and ponderosa pines, then ascends 2000 feet into a lava flow. The route continues down into the lush temperate forests of western Oregon, although we turned back at the top. The best part of this ride: McKenzie Pass Highway is closed to cars from November through mid-June due to snow. The snow's all melted out by late spring, so for a couple months, you can ride almost the entire way without seeing a single car. more »
I recently spent a few weeks commuting in our nation's capital, and my best route was through Rock Creek Park. I wish I had a permanent commute along a route like this!
The park was created by congress in 1890, along with Yosemite National Park. The park is a long valley that pretty much divides the district in half. Most access points are very steep, and I see many more riders walking those hills than riding them. (At the end of my three weeks in the District, I'm proud to say I was regularly climbing those hills.) more »
The other day, the weather was unseasonably nice and a pretty sunset looked forthcoming, so a friend and I decided to go for a short ride down to the Portland waterfront. We ended up catching a beautiful sunset, and had a nice leisurely ride around the Eastbank Esplanade, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and up the first bit of the Springwater Corridor. It was just about rush hour for bike commuters, with hundreds of cyclists passing over bridges and down bike paths. Here are a few pictures from our trip. (Photos taken by jtbandes)
We only went for a short ride, but it was nice to see the city at night and enjoy some time on our bikes with friends.
Apparently there is a long tradition with a certain group that on the shortest day of the year (or nearest convenient day), there's a bicycle ride down the American River Bike Trail. This year I was invited along by the executive director of my local bike advocacy group (which I'm on the board of).
The trail is historical and beautiful. It was one of the first trails specifically made for bicycles in the US, and one of the longest purpose-built paved bike paths in the US. It's about 30 miles long and follows the American River from Folsom to Sacramento. It's essentially 30 miles of park with a nicely paved trail running the length of it, bridges where needed, etc. Lots of parks of various sizes along the way, from tiny little "one picnic table with a view" parks to big sprawling parks. Some of the parks have big parking lots, so if you don't want to ride the whole distance you can start there.
We used light rail to get from Sacramento to Folsom and then rode the downhill/downstream direction of the trail.
The day started at 5:45am, when my bike and I were picked up for a drive down to San Rafael. We met up with somebody, rode about a mile and met up with the truck that drove us to Richmond while we nervously watched the bikes jiggling around on the overloaded rack.
In Richmond, we got on Amtrak to Sacramento, then on a light rail to Folsom. Had a bit of breakfast on the Amtrak ride consisting of food people brought along, such as some homemade gingerbread and banana bread.
The usual tradition in this ride is that there's a rainstorm and epic suffering, but the weather was fantastic this year, so I put away both upper layers that I'd brought along and went until evening in shorts and a t-shirt.
After the light rail, there was a very short ride up a hill to our second breakfast, for kicking off the ride.
Then after that, a ride over to the trail, and off we rode.
Most of the trail is lightly shaded with trees and really quite pleasant.
Our ride ended in Old Town Sacramento, a historic tourist-attracting neighborhood that happens to be right next to the Amtrak station to get us back to Richmond. We got some dinner, a few of us got lost finding the train, got some cocktails at a bar on a boat, and caught the next train.
The C&O runs 180 miles along the Potomac river from Cumberland, MD to Washington, DC. The surface is mostly packed dirt. You don't want to ride this one with skinny road tires. I managed with 700x32 standard touring tires, but riding here is more fun with knobby tires.
I've been on the trail twice, once as part of a Pittsburgh to DC tour, the other on a shorter three-day ride. (We rode the W&OD west for a day out of DC, then turned towards the more-or-less parallel C&O and doubling back towards the district.)
If you're starting in Cumberland, check out the Cumberland Trail Connection, a bike shop that has catered to trail users for years.
The C&O itself starts more or less in the middle of town as a brick-and-stone trail:
Once you exit town, it quickly turns into the dirt trail it will be for most of its way to the nation's capitol.
You'll ride through fields, past pastures and horse farms, and through woods. If it's rained recently, you'll also get pretty filthy. I highly recommend fenders on this trail.
When I went on the northern half of the C&O, portions of it were very overgrown. However, they've since tamed the path a bit, which I think is a shame.
Bring lights along; there are a few unlit tunnels where you'll need them.
Most water available along the trail is from cisterns, and is treated with iodine. If you'll be on the trail for more than a few hours, check the status of these with the park service. Getting stranded overnight without water is, as I can testify, no fun.
If you have time, stop and see the Great Falls. It's right off the trail itself, and maybe an hour or two from the end of the trail in DC. I found it breathtaking, and well worth spending a couple of hours.
This 8-mile section of the old PA Turnpike was abandoned in the late 1960's. The pavement is now cracked, overgrown, and it feels lonely and dead. But it's actually fun to ride on!
We met a group of folks from Bikeforums.net at the access point. There's a sign before you enter that, in effect, lets you know you're riding at your own risk. In fact, I wasn't entirely clear on whether riding here is legal or not.
There are some tunnels, so bring a light along. (One tunnel is about a mile in length.)
The pavement is very rough, and I'd bring a bike with wide tires is you have one. I was surprised by how few mountain bikes I saw:
This is more of a stroll than a ride; you really can't go that fast, or that far--but riding on what used to be the Pennsylvania Turnpike is a strange experience, and one I found well worth the drive from New Jersey.
I found I had an unexpectedly free weekend, so decided on a short weekend tour. Why not, yes? I had the time and the bike and the desire for it. My route would take me through Pennypack Park on the way out of Philadelphia.
The Pennypack Park path is paved, and is quite twisty and hilly. Since the first day of the tour was characterized by rain, I had to take it easy when rounding corners. The rain became more than an annoyance perhaps a mile after entering the park, so I took shelter under the Bensalem Avenue Bridge.
While waiting, I reviewed my directions yet to come. I didn't have long until I got to Tyler State Park and the hostel there. I had no idea at the time that the rain later that day would be so poundingly, painfully thick that I'd accept the offer of a ride for the last few miles.
The park is quite beautiful. I would probably be using the modifier breathtakingly if I had seen it in the rain. Pennypack Park is only a few miles in length, but it's well worth the trip.
This guy rode his bike to the park with his fishing pole. He clearly wanted to be left alone, so I did.
The park has nearly ten miles of path, but I left the trail at Lorimer Park, a mile or so before the end. This is a good place to park if you're going to drive here.
Pennypack Park is a great place for a day's ride. You'll use your hill-climbing gears here, but the hills are all short sprints. This'd be a challenge for kids or new bikers, or a fun diversion for seasoned cyclists.