Watch this fabulous video about the East Coast Greenway

Just about everyone who knows me knows that I’m a big fan of the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile route connecting cities from the Canadian border in Calais, Maine, down to Key West in Florida. I’ve ridden almost all of it, admittedly liking some parts more than others, and remain hopeful that I’ll be able to meet up with some of my Greenway buddies at the end of the summer to close my final gap.

But when we have to social distance when we get on our bikes and can’t head out for multi-day rides, all thanks to the coronavirus, and it’s rainy or threatening to rain, like this entire weekend, we need a little something to dream about.

And so I offer this video from one of my Greenway buddies about the nine weeks (one a year) that a semi-permanent cast of characters spent biking the 3,000 miles.

If you want to follow in our tire tracks, you can get free cue sheets in the maps section of the Greenway’s website. Enter your start and end point (because no one says you have to do the whole thing, or all at once), and it will spit out every left and right turn you need. Yes, they are good for walkers too. And of course you can read about my experiences on the Greenway by clicking through on this blog. I’d also recommend this blog chronicling an end-to-end ride.

Finally, the Greenway blog has plenty of tips for riders and walkers, including camp sites along the route, plus bike shops, breweries, ice cream shops, coffee shops, national parks sites, minor league baseball, museums, even college campuses.

What a way to see the East Coast of America!

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Going stir-crazy in the age of coronavirus — so time for a bike ride

It’s not even been a week of working from home and staying indoors a lot. This is going to be hard. I’m eating too much, even if I (futilely) try to barricade the door to the kitchen. I can always go outside to fight the war against the evil hairy bittercress weed that would take over the yard in a heartbeat, of course. But sometimes you just need a bike ride.

Saturday afternoon was sunny and fairly warm (missed the true hot day on Friday because, you know, work). Where to go?

I’d been getting emails most of the week from Flounder Brewing, that nano brewery we checked out last fall as part of my “weird beer” rides. I couldn’t tell if they were still open and selling crowlers (32-ounce cans), but we figured it was as good a destination as any. 17 miles each way, a mix of trail and road.

First, the roads are incredibly empty. And this is before the governor tightened up the rules to essential businesses and essential travel only. We saw so many suburbanites — including kids — biking on roads you know they’d normally be too afraid of. And you know many don’t normally bike because their seats were too low! OK, we also saw a few people riding the wrong way. Hopefully they’ll learn.

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A surprise history find on a bike ride

Today was a sunny, unusually warm Presidents Day … so of course I went for a bike ride. The destination: A history talk. Not on George Washington (too obvious!), but on Teddy Roosevelt.

Here’s the history bonus: I stumbled across the home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence — but the wrinkle is he didn’t represent New Jersey. (There are several New Jersey signers around here — John Witherspoon, Richard Stockton and John Hart.) This sign is on Snowden Lane in Princeton, just outside a home on the National Register of Historic Places.

Learn more about Joseph Hewes here and here. And then read more about discovering local history by bike: A weekend bike tour around Princeton NJ: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

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Discovering an elaborate marble-covered Hindu temple in central New Jersey

When it tops 60 degrees in January, how do you not go for a bike ride? And so we did, riding a loop of nearly 20 miles with the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Robbinsville as our midway destination.

A mandir is a Hindu temple, and this one is immense — I would call it the equivalent of a cathedral. It’s been open for about 5 1/2 years and is part of a five-building complex still under construction. Like a cathedral, you can come in for services, pray on your own or just gawk at marble carvings.

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Day 7: 53 miles from Marathon to Key West

Done!

We have made it to Key West and the end of the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway. It’s an especially happy moment for those who have now ridden the entire route, with its ups and downs (I’m envious; I still need to ride from Providence to New York). It’s also a sad moment because the end of the annual Week A Year rides means we won’t have an obvious reason to gather every year. Hopefully some of us will still ride together.

So, yes, we ended at the oversized buoy marking the southernmost point in the U.S. There’s a line of people all waiting to get their photo taken there, so it feels, well, like a tourist trap. Far cooler, I thought, and more suitable for us was the multi-colored arch of bike wheels the city of Key West created for us in a park a couple of blocks away.

We weren’t the only ones loving it. City officials said non-cyclists were taking photos there all day. It will get even more attention on Saturday, when the two-day, 165-mile Miami-to-Key-West Smart Ride wraps up, and I hope city officials then give it a permanent spot.

Actually, it’s a cool idea to borrow for the East Coast Greenway’s NYC-PHL ride next year.

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Day 6: 54 miles from Key Largo to Marathon

Our luck finally ran out. We’d woken up to rain in Titusville, but it was sunny by the time we left for our first day on this year’s Week A Year Tour.. There was a torrential downpour in Palm Beach the day before we arrived, and more rain the day after. Sunshine, though, when we were there.

But today … it was raining when we woke up, and the weather radar that claimed it would be gone by 8:45 a.m. was dead wrong. We waited a bit longer, but at one point you just get impatient. Plus it was a warm rain, close to 80 degrees. How bad could it be?

So we swooped by Doc’s Diner (where you can get breakfast with a dozen scrambled eggs, sausage links, crispy bacon, thick ham steak, pancakes, French toast, homemade sausage gravy, freshly grilled hash browns, creamy grits, hot biscuits and fresh fruit for $36 — and it supposedly feeds just four to five people?) to pick up one rider, and off we went in the rain.

The rain got worse.

We were on a sidepath along U.S. 1 (really the only road in the Keys) and dodging puddles for a few miles, but it was about to run out and put us onto a bike lane on the road, with trucks and cars going by. Suddenly there, across the road, was the Key Lime Pie Factory (ok, really probably just a store, but factory sounds better in a name). We decided this was the place to seek shelter. Of course the air conditioning was freezing. So we stood outside under an overhang, sharing a slice of pie and staring at the sky. Finally it looked like it was lightening up, and we decided for the second time to just go for it.

This time it really did stop raining, at least for a while. By afternoon, though, we were being chased by this giant dark cloud on the Atlantic side. Every once in a while, we’d get rain again, though thankfully just for a few minutes. It was harder to escape the puddles, though, and my feet were sloshing in my bike shoes by the time we reached the hotel.

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Day 5: 74 miles from Miami Beach to Key Largo

Sometimes Florida surprises you, and I mean that in a good way.

Today we had lots of trail. Not in the wooded, shady way but in the separated from three lanes of crazy traffic on U.S. 1 kind of way. First, though, we had to get out of Miami Beach and into Miami. We had more of that lovely beachfront trail in Miami Beach — the Atlantic Greenway — down to the tip of Miami Beach, past some of the amazing Art Deco buildings and then back north to the MacArthur Causeway Bridge.

Then came the bike lane on the bridge next to rush-hour traffic. All you can do is ride in a group and keep hoping that Florida traffic engineers actually get on a bike one day and think about ways to make this better.

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