I can count on one hand the benefits of growing old. If you’re fortunate, grand children is included. Through no effort of my own, I’m in the privileged category as I have two very bright, beautiful granddaughters. The downside, they live one thousand miles away in Michigan.
Modern technology helps us stay connected. Through Face Time, we can watch them grow and they can watch us grow old. No substitute for an actual face to face visit, Nana and Coach recently decided on a trip to Michigan.
The older I get the more stressful I find traveling, especially driving. However, if I can’t take my toys (that would be bikes and kayaks in the summer) I don’t want to go. Weighing my choices, I invariably opt to load playthings and suffer the consequences of the decision.
In an effort to make the process more palatable, I planned to break up the pilgrimage with at least one bike path outing every day. Mapping a circuitous itinerary, my goal was to avoid the most congested traffic areas while riding the best possible trails. An admirable objective, if I do say so myself.
Anytime I can bypass the I84 corridor through Connecticut, New York, and eastern Pennsylvania is a success story. The old bumper cars carnival ride comes to mind. Fleeing I495 in Leominster, Massachusetts, we escaped east on Route 2 to the Berkshire community of Adams at the foot of Mount Greylock. Hidden away in that sleepy village is what I consider to be the finest paved bike trail in New England, Ashuwilliticook Rail Trail. Arriving at the in-town trailhead on a hot, steamy afternoon, I fled the road wars with a refreshing shaded ride along the rapids of Hoosic River to the Town of Cheshire. Diverging from the river, the path followed scenic Cheshire Reservoir for much of the remainder of the trek. Predominantly a downhill return, the 24 mile ride was just what the bike doctor ordered.
After spending the night in nearby Albany, New York, we began the next day with another truly exceptional ride on the Mohawk Hudson Trail. We discovered this picturesque path almost two decades ago when our son, now Dad of our granddaughters, was performing in summer theatre in the area. Beginning at the Niskayuna Trailhead adjacent to the historic Mohawk River, we rode the panoramic rolling paved trail to Schenectady and back.
Playtime temporarily suspended, Team Geriatric persevered west on lightly traveled I88 and I86 to Pine Creek Rail Trail near Wellsboro in north central Pennsylvania. By trending southwest, the heavily used routes between Buffalo and Michigan were circumvented. Negotiating through what is designated the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, the crushed stone Pine Creek Trail provides an entertaining excursion through a consequential valley in a wilderness environment.
Bike paths in western Pennsylvania were on our agenda for day three. Continuing west on I80 with minimal traffic to Emlenton, an invigorating distraction awaited us on the Allegheny River Rail Trail. Thirty miles of paved bikeway along the swollen river in a canopy of hardwoods offered relief from oppressive heat.
Early the next morning, prior research was rewarded with a cycling gem, a twelve mile paved trek on John Oliver Loop Trail circumnavigating Lake Wilhelm in far western Pennsylvania. Steep hills, exciting twisting turns, sporadic views of the lake, and a dam traverse made this a scenic pedaling cornucopia.
Persisting on I80 into Ohio, the toll highway limits on and off ramp traffic, reducing anxiety even along the outskirts of Cleveland. After lodging near Toledo, a short drive south to Bowling Green delivered us to the northern terminus of paved Slippery Elm Trail. An outing abundant with colorful birds; orioles, cardinals, and cedar waxwings were sighted. A stop at whimsical Rudolph, “The deerest town in Wood County” is a must.
Eluding gridlock in Toledo, Ann Arbor, and Lansing, we persisted west into northern Indiana for the night. On the final day of our journey, navigating the Kal-Haven Trail in southwestern Michigan was the last hurrah. A crushed stone surface connecting Kalamazoo with South Haven, the thirty-four mile path travels through a pastoral landscape on what was originally the Kalamazoo and South Haven Railroad. An old red caboose at the Kalamazoo Trailhead provides irrefutable evidence of an earlier time.
Our wonderful granddaughters were full of energy when we arrived. Did I mention that our son and daughter-in-law live there? They’re wonderful, too. The first family activity, a bike ride!
Author of “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England,” Ron Chase resides in Topsham. Visit his website at www.ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.