Off Road Odyssey

Meet the newest member of our tandem family.

It’s a 1999 (Go Dawgs) off-road aluminum Cannondale MT800.  It has SRAM 24-speed, a Rock Shok front fork, and weighs a ton. Because it’s built like a tank and has 26×2” tires, we can ride over anything. 

We made this purchase in anticipation of riding the Katy Trail in the fall. We figure we should train on the bike, and spend the four days between the Eastern Tandem Rally and the start of Bike Virginia riding on two of the Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame paths.

First up, The Greenbrier River Trail near Lewisburg, WV.

We practically have this trail to ourselves for 2 days. It’s a spectacular trail that runs along the river, so the views just keep on coming.  

It’s wide and crushed gravel with few road crossings.  I never have to say the words “car back”.

We go through a very dark tunnel (without our “Death Star” front light on).

The tunnel is around 200 feet long
The tunnel is like the inside of a West Virginia coal mine.

We see almost no other humans, but we are literally sharing the trail with lots of wild life.  Here is the unofficial count: 1 bear, making a ruckus hanging onto the branches of a tree right beside us, 1 woodchuck, 2 bunnies, 4 turtles and 5 deer.

It’s easy to photograph the turtle!
You can see some of he deer, I took this over Roger’s shoulder
I am wearing my “bear” whistle!

Next we head to Damascus, Virginia.  Appalachian Trail Hikers who haven’t seen civilization in days and Virginia Creeper riders who have to be shuttled to the top of the mountain so they can coast down to the bottom (and then celebrate with ice cream) all meet up in this sleepy crossroads town.

The AT and the Virginia Creeper cross in Damascus
They haul bikes up the mountain with these vans and they are very busy

We stay at the Damascus Old Mill Inn for 2 nights.  

Our hotel, front view
This is the back, all of these decks overlook the lake and falls

We have a room with a view and a balcony that overlooks the falls where the mill used to be.

We see this view from our balcony

We won’t see much wildlife on the Virginia Creeper Trail, but we are practically staying in a sanctuary.  The great blue heron hangs out fishing right in front of us. 

The heron is very patient!

The ducks and geese (and babies) are everywhere.  And while eating dinner one night we get a flyover from an eagle.

As far as we can tell, we are one of the only bikes to ride UP the Creeper trail from Damascus to the North Carolina border.

It takes us 2 hours to climb the 18 miles, and 1 hour and 6 minutes to descend.

The Virginia Creeper is a meticulously maintained trail with more than 40 trestles and several restrooms over 35 miles.

Sometimes the riding path gets very narrow, and sometimes you have to open gates to get through private land, but for the most part it’s wide and smooth enough with more gravel than dirt.  It’s dark, shady and cool on a hot day.

Check out the intricate work on this trestle

Our second day of riding the Creeper takes us from Damascus to Abingdon (and back), 32 miles round trip and more gates than I think to count or photograph (as I am the official gate opener).

It’s a total of 130 miles on the “new” bike and we really enjoy the experience.  The scenery and the shade, the lack of cars and the opportunity to really commune with nature have us looking forward to our Katy Trail adventure in September.

Next up we are back on the road tandem and ready to do some climbing at our first Bike Virginia. I’ll report back in about a week!

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10 thoughts on “Off Road Odyssey

  1. Love the C-dale! That red! Who gets to control the drum brake? We took ours off, not because I don’t trust the Doctor, but we just weren’t using it and wanted to save the weight. Thought that was great till we were coming down the Point Lookout Greenway Trail in Black Mountain, which loses 900 ft. of elevation in three and a half miles.

  2. Thanks for sharing. Looks like you had a great time. GBRT is our favorite trail. We spend a week in Watoga State Park,Mile post 45, and attend the Roadkill cook off in Marlinton, Mile post 55, which is held the last weekend in September. Going on our tenth year.

  3. What a blast! Thanks for sharing. Do you think the yrail would be doable on a road tandem with 35mm gatorskins?

    1. Cliff & Joyce: We did the Virginia Creeper from Damascus to Whitetop…to Damascus…on our road tandem with 25mm tires with no issues. Going up was slow enough that I could steer around anything potentially tire damaging. On the way down, with the fresh memory of the ascent, it was easy to know where to rein it in. And…because there was lots of other traffic (mostly those cruisers just rolling down, but also some hikers/walkers), for the most part, we never let it run.

  4. Sometimes I think that I would like to trade lives with you; you travel and ride the most picturesque places. (You also are sooo good at telling your stories with carefully chosen words and fabulous pictures.) Then I remember how much I love living close to the ocean 12 months a year. Kev and I bought a 1977 Farr 37′ sailboat in San Diego on Tuesday. We will be working on it until it is seaworthy enough to bring up the coast to our mooring in Newport Beach. Thanks for all your posts. The new bike sounds fantastic!

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