Posts Tagged ‘national park’

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Location – Lock 8 

Mile Park – 8.4

Historical Comment – The lock house has been converted in to a mini-museum called the “River Center”.

Ride to the Site – Very easy.  This point on the canal is near Washington D.C.  Although traffic might be an issue during the “rush hour” phases of the work day.

Amenities – There is a picnic area but no rest rooms. At the time of our visit there were no trash cans in the picnic area.

Road Conditions (from main road) – This lock is directly off the main road.  But there is steep, rocky trail down to the lock area itself.  

Railway Situation – no railroad tracks or crossing.

Parking Lot Condition – All paved with about 10 parking spots.  

Main Attraction – The River Center open weekends May to October

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Debbie and I decided to take a quick Sunday morning motorcycle ride this past weekend.  Our ride took us to three national parks in about 5 hours!

Leaving home about 8AM we headed out to the George Washington Parkway (a national park). It took us about an hour to get to the southern terminus which is also Mount Vernon home of George Washington. Riding north on the parkway gives the rider a wonderful, at times panoramic, views of the Potomac River and surrounding country.

Coming abreast of Washington D.C. the view is remains panoramic as well as breath taking. The Washington and Lincoln Monuments clearly in view, the Kennedy Center and the spires of Georgetown make the few minutes you ride past the city quite awe inspiring.  Just past those sites you come across Theodore Roosevelt Island.  This is an often a much under looked memorial to a great president.  Take the time to walk across to the island and view this memorial. We did not stop this time…the parking lot was full, otherwise it would have been 4 national parks in 5 ½ hours.

The second park of this motorcycle ride was the C&O Canal National Park.  If you follow this blog you will see that I am attempting to get to all the motorcycle accessible stops along the canal.  I have knocked out a few but there is a lot of stops remaining.

Lastly we stopped in and took a look at Glen Echo National Park.  Just a short distance from the Clara Barton Parkway (named after the founder of the American Red Cross) this National Park started life in 1891 as a school and in 1911 transformed in to the premier amusement park of the great D.C area.  In 1971, shortly after the amusement park closed the Park Service took over and it is now a national park!  The park is an easy motorcycle ride coming out of or into Washington D.C.

Leaving Glen Echo we returned to the Clara Barton Parkway and headed west towards home.  All in all…a great day for a motorcycle ride!

A bit ago my wife, Debbie, and I along with our friends Tim and Karma rode the length of Skyline Drive on our motorcycles. We made the ride

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Pit stop in Front Royal, VA

before the leaves appear from their winter hibernation and the views from the drive were nothing but spectacular!

As we left Tim and Karma’s home the morning was crisp, cool, bright and sunny, it appeared that we had a great day form riding ahead of us. Mostly taking the small roads, it took a little over an hour to ride to Front Royal, VA, which is the northern terminus of the national park. When we arrived at Front Royal we stopped to top of the bikes (there is only three gas stations on Skyline Drive) and goofed off for a few minutes.

Getting back on the road, we immediately made a wrong turn and missed the Front Royal park entrance. That wrong turn became a disguised blessing as we got to ride up Thornton Gap to the next Skyline Drive entry point. Thornton Gap (US Route 211) is a twisty bit of motorcycle heaven, enough so that it warrants a special sign at the bottom to warn bikers that this is a high crash area. I HIGHLY recommend that if you are riding Skyline Drive that you jump off to ride this bit of highway!

Ijustwant2ride.comOnce on the parkway it turns out this ride was better than most of our trips to the park. Very little traffic, no park police, awesome views everywhere you looked and great friends made this a special day to ride. We stopped often to admire the panoramic views, but with 75 overlooks into the valleys below trying to stop at them all it would make for a very long day. With the stunning country view and nary a metropolitan area in sight, is hard to believe that we are less than 100 miles from the Washington DC rat race.

I have come to the conclusion that early spring, before the leaves exploded into life, has to be the best time to ride Skyline drive. As note before we did not encounter a lot of cars but we did see a lot of other motorcyclist riding everything from sport bikes, café racers to other touring bikes.

The ride from Thornton Gap entrance to the southern end of the park took us about 3 ½ hours. Charlottesville and the University of Virginia are a short trip to the east and we decided to ride into to town and have a late lunch. The last time Debbie and I were in Charlottesville we were picking up our black Ultra Limited, which we traded a year later for our new blue Ultra Limited.

During our lunch we debated our route back finally settling on Route 15. The ride north to our respective homes was uneventful. All in all we sent about 8 hours and a bit over 350 miles in the saddle that day. Good friends, good rides make for a good day!

 

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Williamsport Visitor Center and Cushwa Basin

Location – Williamsport Visitor Center/Cushwa Basin

Mile Marker –99.6

Historical Comments – Built in the 1830s the Cushwa Basin was developed as a major point on the canal for the loading/unloading and turning of barges. The area around the visitors and the canal itself is steeped in history. Some of the historic highlights of the area include:

Williamsport considered for the nation’s capital

Multiple civil war battles fought to capture, sabotage or destroy the aqueduct.

Gen. Lee used pontoon bridges to cross a flooded Potomac after Gettysburg.

In 1920 a boat bumped the aqueduct wall which caused it to collapse taking the wall and the boat into the creek below.

Ride to Site – The visitor center and basin is off main street Williamsport. Good signage easily directs you to the site.

Amenities – Visitors Center, public restrooms, parking, boat launch, bike rental, all normal amenities in the town of Williamsport.

Road Conditions (from main road) – paved

Railway Situation – none

Parking Lot Conditions –Pea gravel but the edge between the pavement and the parking lot is on a slight hill and appears to suffer damage from water runoff, pay close attention to your line of travel.

Main Attraction – This should be one of your main stops even if you do not want to stop at many (or any) other points along the canal route! Williamsport is only stop where you can visit many of the major canal structures in one place. Here you can see, all within a half mile:

The Conocheague Aqueduct

The Cushwa turning basin

A railroad lift bridge

A Bollman Iron Truss Bridge

A lock house (Lock 44)

Visitor center exhibits

Recreation of canal boat rides (during summer)

My Thoughts – As noted above this is a great spot to learn about the canal. It is easy to get to as it only a few miles from from Interstate 81.

Map Ijustwant2ride.com

 

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Ferry Hill Plantation

Location – Ferry Hill Plantation

Mile Marker –72.8

Historical Comments – Just up the street from Lock 38 is the Ferry Hill Plantation. The area around the plantation began as a cross river ferry site in the 1760’s. The ferry and plantation remained in a single family’s hands until 1958, a really good run. It site served as a restaurant and bar until 1974, catering to the students from Shepherd College across the river in Shepherdstown, WV.

The plantation served as the headquarters of the C&O Canal National Park system from 1979 to 2001. Now it is a museum to the C&O Canal and plantation life in Maryland. If you are touring the Canal this is a nice side stop.

Ride to Site – At the intersection of Route 34 and Canal Road, the ride to the plantation is a smooth easy ride. Coming from Canal Road be aware of the traffic on Route 34 as the speed limit does not seem enforced.

Amenities – Visitors Center, public restrooms, parking

Road Conditions (from main road) – paved

Railway Situation – none

Parking Lot Conditions – Paved and pea gravel

Main Attraction – Ferry Hill Plantation.

My Thoughts – One of the hidden gems while motorcycle touring the canal (it happens to be air conditioned) 🙂 . The plantation house is manned my volunteer docents who provide an oral rendition of the history of the home and grounds.

Map

C&O Canal Motorcycle Ride: Ferry Hill Plantation

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Park Entrance

This past weekend Debbie, our friends Tim and Karma and I took a motorcycle ride to the Flight 93, 9/11 Memorial and National Park.

We mounted our bikes and had kickstands up at about 9AM, headed north and west on Interstate 70. WOW, the traffic on I70 was very heavy; it was like a Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend heavy. I understand why everyone wants out of the Washington DC metro area, but come on guys; did you not know I wanted the highway to myself?!?!

The first point where the traffic begins to thin, but only slightly, was as we passed the Hagerstown Outlet Mall. But traffic did not really become light until we reached the I70 and I68 intersection, from that point on things were calm and smooth. At least until the temperature began to drop the further north and the higher elevation we made.

While I was comfy behind the fairing on the Ultra Limited the others were quite cool and in the mood for warmth and food. We stopped for breakfast about 10:30 at “Cathie’s County Store” near the intersection of I70 and PA 915. Debbie declared that Cathie’s home fries were the best she ever had! Pulling back out onto the interstate it was not long before we were onto US 30, also known as the Lincoln Highway.

Just a short way before the actual park entrance we crested a ridge and saw dozens of wind turbines and at the same time understood why they were there. From the time we crested that ridge until we nearly reached the interstate again there was a constant wind, sometimes enough to cause the bikes to move a bit in our lane.

When we reached the Flight 93 Memorial I was pleasantly surprised how full the parking lot was for a cool, overcast Saturday. We arrived at the park just as a park ranger began a presentation of the events of that day. His presentation was a pointed reminder of the events of 9/11 and the courage of the crew and passengers of Flight 93 knowing that the terrorists were intending to crash the plane into a building. While their efforts cost the lives of 40 they likely saved the lives of hundreds if not thousands.

After that solemn stop we rode south stopping at Highland Harley Davidson in Somerset, PA. Tim needed to buy a heavier shirt for the trip back. While he claims otherwise, I am sure he bought one off the women’s rack as the shirt he bought had thumb holes “to hold it in place”…. 🙂

From Somerset we rode south to Cumberland, MD and I68 then back towards home. We stopped for diner at the Longhorn Steak House in Frederick, MD. After a good diner we said out goodbyes and head for the house.

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Whites Ferry C&O Canal Stop

Location – Whites Ferry

Mile Marker – 35.5

Historical Comments –This stop on the canal is named for the actual ferry with which it shares the location.  The ferry predates the canal by more than half a century and is still in operation today as the only ferry on the Potomac River.  You can read more about the Whites Ferry ferry here.

Ride to Site – Riding to Whites Ferry requires you ride through farm land.  Be on the lookout for slow moving farm equipment.  Pay attention as well for deer and other wildlife crossing the road.  There are multiple speed cameras in and around the nearby town of Poolsville.

Amenities – The ferry operates a small grocery/deli during the summer months, the area has picnic tables, boat ramp, restrooms.

Road Conditions (from main road) – All paved and in decent condition

Railway Situation – None

Parking Lot Conditions – Hard packed gravel, use a kickstand puck.

Main Attraction – Whites Ferry, $3 for motorcycles to cross the river.

My Thoughts – The canal site itself is interesting.  After crossing the river you can, at the traffic light, turn left and head into Leesburg or turn right and head back towards Point of Rocks, MD (another stop on the canal tour).

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whites ferry

 

 

A few weeks ago, just before the temperature dropped (and pretty much stayed) into the 30s (F), I was able to get a late afternoon ride to the Bunswick stop on the C&O.  For background on what I am doing with the C&O please look at this post.

Location – Brunswick Visitors Center 40 West Potomac Street, Brunswick, MD 21716

Mile Marker – 55

Historical Comments –This is all about the history of the C&O Canal.

The visitor center, which is shared with the Brunswick Railroad Museum, has several static displays regarding the canal (in classic National Park Service style), its development and its relation to the town of Brunswick.

Ride to Site – The Visitors Center is located in downtown Brunswick. There is no actual “stop” on the canal.

Amenities – All normal urban amenities are present.

Road Conditions (from main road) – Normal two lane roads.

Railway Situation – If you attempt to ride to the path (not really accessible via your bike) the rail line is on the surface.

Parking Lot Conditions – Typical parking for a small town.

Main Attraction –

My Thoughts – Nice little museum.  Brunswick, MD would make a nice little day trip from Washington DC or the surrounding area. Nice country roads will get you into town from any direction.

Map

c&O canal, motorcycle ride

 

Earlier this year I stopped at the Catoctin Aqueduct.   For background on what I am doing with the C&O please look at this post.

LocationCatoctin Aqueduct

Mile Marker – 51

Historical Comments –One of eleven stone aqueducts (allowing the canal to pass over Catoctin Creek) it was recently rebuilt. From 1978, when it was destroyed in a flood, until October 2011 the span across the creek was via a steel footbridge.

You can stay overnight in the Lock house, see here for detail.

Ride to Site – This stop on the C&O is between Point of Rock and Brunswick, MD.  You will use State Route 464 and turn onto Lander rode to get to the canal.  When approaching the turn off of 464 from the east pay close attention, the sign gives you the appearance that you take the next left.  It is actually the second left!

Amenities – parking, lodging

Road Conditions (from main road) – Paved to parking area

Railway Situation – Ground level

Parking Lot Conditions – Large, loose gravel and, use a kickstand puck.

Main Attraction – Aqueduct is about a mile from the parking area. Lock house number 28

My Thoughts – This is a good area to see a lock house and how the canal flowed along the river.  The restored aqueduct is a bit of a hike if you are wearing riding gear.

Map

From Google Map

photo by warren massey

C&O Canal Point of Rock MD

Location – Point of Rocks

Mile Marker – 48

Historical CommentsPoint of Rocks is one of the sites where the B&O Railroad and the C&O Canal fought over the right away as the pass between the river and the cliffs were very narrow.  They eventually reached a compromise that also saw a wall erected between the rail line and the canal towpaths so that the mules pulling the barges would not be frightened.

During the Civil War, the town, canal and railroad made tempting targets for the confederates operating in Virginia.  The rail station, still in use, was built in 1876. Find out more about this stop at the C&O Canal Trust website.

Ride to Site – This stop on the canal is located just off of and even under US Route 15.  The trains at this location run often so be alert for the oncoming locomotives.

Amenities – picnic tables, boat ramp, restrooms, parking.  Nearby gas and food.

Road Conditions (from main road) – Paved but with pot holes.

Railway Situation – Ground level

Parking Lot Conditions – Paved.

Main Attraction – Boat ramp, Route 15 bridge for pictures, rail station for pictures, Lock House 28 is available for lodging on the canal but you would have to park the motorcycles about a mile away.

My Thoughts – Great site for pictures and a nice stop when riding in the area.

Map Picture by Warren massey