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).
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.
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.
We stay at the Damascus Old Mill Inn for 2 nights.
We have a room with a view and a balcony that overlooks the falls where the mill used to be.
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 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.
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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