I almost feel like I’m cheating on exercise when I’m on my road bike, since it is such a pleasure to be pedaling through beautiful scenery while staying cooled by self-generated wind. The most memorable of those rides are the ones where you don’t have to watch for or listen to cars, and so we are always seeking out remote roads or paved trails. They are not necessarily close by or convenient, but they are great for that complete biking immersion that is both a physical workout and mental relaxation.
In looking for those sorts of experiences over the last couple of months, we’ve discovered the perfect thing to have at the start and the end of those perfect rides:
A small motorhome.
Virginia and I recently came to this same conclusion, primarily because of our preference for paved bike trails. Unfortunately, those trails are not just right outside our door. And that’s where a motorhome – especially one that is small enough to park almost anywhere – beats our usual bike-transport-by-car in many ways:
• All that bicycling gear -- helmets, bike clothes and shoes, water bottles, tools, pump, oil – are stored in the van, rather than packing/unpacking our car every time. Same for the bike rack, which we leave mounted on the van (not practical with our car).
• You can change to your bike clothes after you arrive at the trailhead. Lycra makes for great bike shorts, but it’s not very useful or comfortable (or stylish) for much else if you don't want to drive directly to the trailhead.
• You don’t have to search for a restroom prior to starting the bike ride – that nice clean bathroom is always with you. This is especially useful when you’re exploring new territory and are not sure if there will be any services at or near the trailhead.
• There are cold beverages and ice waiting for you at the end of the ride. (This is key.)
• You bring your shade with you, thanks to the van's awning, so you can be sitting outside on lawn chairs while the van is cooling down . . . did I mention ice-cold beverages?
• After that cool-off, you can shower and change into fresh clothes – a nice way to extend the outing into another activity (more sightseeing, or maybe checking out a new place to eat) before heading home.
Using the van as our base camp, our latest bike path discovery is the Neuse River Trail, a newly completed greenway just east of Raleigh, North Carolina. This is not your usual greenway that meanders along streets and sidewalks and through parks – the newest section at the southern end forms an uninterrupted off-road paved bike trail. This beautiful stretch starts around mile marker 17.5 (Anderson Point) and heads south on smooth asphalt, suspension bridges over the river, and boardwalks through the wetlands. I almost don’t want to people to discover this section, since even weekend bike traffic is very minimal on this part of the trail.
For riding this part of the trail, we drive about 50 minutes from home and park the van at a trail parking lot near mile marker 26 (see map at the bottom of this post). We bicycle north to Anderson Point, then reverse and ride until the river/countryside scenery becomes more residential as the trail nears Clayton. Returning to the van, the entire round trip is 22 miles, though I should mention there are no services (no restroom, no water) at that parking lot.
That's OK – we have the ultimate bike accessory along for the ride!
Marker shows location of the Mial Plantation Road parking lot near milepost 26