You know I love to explore on a bicycle. And this year I’ll take a great 325-mile adventure from Philadelphia through Washington and onto Fredericksburg, Virginia. I’ll be participating in the annual fundraising ride for the East Coast Greenway, a nearly 3,000-mile route from the Canadian border in Maine to Key West in Florida for bicyclists and walkers. While the route is already mapped, it now uses a mix of trails and generally quiet roads. The goal is to have it entirely on paths separated from traffic. That makes it suitable for people of all ages and bicycling ability.
If I need any convincing about the power of that sort of trail, I can just look at the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile rail trail from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md., that was completed last year and which connects to the 185-mile C&O Canal to Washington. I’ve just come back from riding it with three others. We ran into so many other cyclists – and it’s not even summer yet. One of the many things that impressed me was the economic power that a long, signposted, car-free trail can have. We heard about the woman who started her B&B with just one house when the trail was just partially finished, then bought the one next door and is now adding a third because there is so much demand. The company that shuttled us back to Pittsburgh is debating buying another vehicle because of the business it is seeing. Many establishments we patronized simply wouldn’t survive in their small towns without this trail. No surprise, then, that others are trying to build trails that connect to the north and west.
This is also why I find the East Coast Greenway so exciting. It connects cities, making it an urban version of the Appalachian Trail. It’s equally suitable for short distances, such as getting to work, as for long adventures. And because it links up local trails, such as the D&R Canal towpath that is just a few miles from my house, each becomes more useful to locals and more of a lure to bike tourists, just as with the Great Allegheny Passage. (Oh, and bike tourists have money. Just ask the Great Allegheny Passage boosters.)
You can learn more about the East Coast Greenway at www.greenway.org
I’ll be riding the 325 miles from October 5 to October 11 and have set a personal fundraising goal of $2,000. Every dollar will go to the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the nonprofit that oversees the creation of the East Coast Greenway, not to pay for my trip. I will be footing the bill for my hotel, food and travel. All donations are tax-deductible, and donations of $20 or higher will give you a year membership in the East Coast Greenway Alliance.
You can sponsor me online through this link or send me a check made out to the ECGA, and I will forward it. I’ll also be blogging about my training and the ride on this site, so come back for updates.
In the meantime, I hope you get out and enjoy the trails in your town.