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Cycling news & info with a special focus on notable bike tours, bike trails, bikeways, lanes and bicycle routes as well as innovative bicycling products like space saving & easy to transport folding bikes.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Virginia Creeper Trail Report

Last year, a RideTHISbike.com reader and folding bike owner (Jim Lukens) wrote that he was planning to go bicycling on the Virginia Creeper Trail. I caught up with Jim over the weekend. He did get to ride the trail in September on his folding bike and here are his comments about the ride.

"I went up in September and stayed in one of the B&Bs in Damascus (Virginia) to scout out the area. I took a shuttle to the top, then rode back to Damascus, then traded in my rental bike and rode another 16 miles (8 down, 8 back) on my Downtube folding bike. I got so enamored with the place that I made my family go back a couple weeks later (they have a great playground for the kids in Damascus) and I'm trying to schedule some spring weekends to get back up there with some of my buddies and maybe do an Out and Back from Abingdon with some camping up in the state forest. I think I found my little corner of heaven. I'm not sure how I'd write a review of the trail or the place other than to just rant over and over 'this place is great'."

Jim also mentioned that some of the local creeks near the Creeper appear to offer good potential for whitewater kayaking.

Thanks Jim, for the info. I'll definitely keep the Virginia Creeper Trail in my upcoming rides to do list.

By the way, another site that focuses on the Virginia Creeper is VaCreeperTrail.com. Although it's not the "official" site for the trail, it does offer useful lodging and travel planning info.

I'm always looking for first hand reports about bicycling on long distance bike trails. If you rode a trail recently, write me about the experience using my email link at the bottom of this page. If I publish your info, I'll be glad to give you the credit.

Happy trails. L

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Places To Go Bicycling - Tuscaloosa, Alabama

by Larry Lagarde

Located in northwest Alabama about 60 miles west of Birmingham, Tuscaloosa is best known as the home of the University of Alabama (Crimson Tide), several large hospitals and the place where Daimler-Benz produces the Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV. In existence since the early 1800's, Tuscaloosa is more than simply a college town. A former capitol of Alabama, Tuscaloosa offers over 20 points of interest including museums and antebellum homes.

Places To Go Bicycling In Tuscaloosa
According to Stephanie Roberts at the Tuscaloosa CVB, Tuscaloosa offers three great places to go bicycling: River Walk, Lake Lurleen and Sokol Park.

River Walk
Since 2002, Tuscaloosa has been working on a 13 mile biking and walking trail along both banks of the Black Warrior and North rivers. Though only a portion is complete, the trail is developing into a recreational attraction that links the University of Alabama (UA) with shopping & dining opportunities downtown.
(Photo: Bridge on the River Walk Trail.)

Lake Lurleen State Park
Located 9 miles Northwest of Tuscaloosa and 14 miles from UA, mountain bikers like Lake Lurleen's approximately 15 miles of multi-use trails. Lake Lurleen also offers a campground, fishing & boat rentals.
(Photo: Mountain biker a riding single track trail at Lake Lurleen.)

Sokol Park
Located on the north side of the Black Warrior River off of Watermelon Rd, Sokol Park offers @ 14 miles of mountain biking opportunities including challenging and technical sections which are sometimes steep.

Getting There
Tuscaloosa is served by both I-59, Amtrak's Crescent and a regional airport. The Amtrak station is only a few blocks from downtown; both the university and the River Walk are just a mile away. (Photo c/o David Smith: River Walk bridge.)

More Bicycling Info
For additional info about cycling in and around Tuscaloosa, try...
The Bicycle Shop
1408 University Blvd
Tuscaloosa Alabama, AL 35401
Ph: 205-758-4906

More Sports/Fitness Info
Stephanie Roberts
Director of Sports Marketing/Public Relations
Tuscaloosa Convention & Visitors Bureau
Ph: 205-391-9200

Places To Go Bicycling is a new, weekly feature of RideTHISbike.com.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Places To Go Bicycling - Birmingham, Alabama

by Larry Lagarde

Located in north central Alabama with a population of about 250,000, Birmingham is the largest city in this southern state. Founded just after the Civil War as an industrial center, Birmingham is the only place in the world where all the raw materials for producing steel are found in significant quantities. In the first half of the 20th century, B'ham's steel output was so high that it quickly earned the nickname "Pittsburgh of the South."

Due to the way Alabama allocates gas taxes and the city's location at the confluence of 3 interstates & 2 US highways, automobile use in Birmingham is among the highest in the USA and has fueled an out migration to the suburbs since the 1960's. With the steel industry waning in the 1970's, the economy of B'ham diversified over several decades into banking, bio-technology, information technology, law, medicine, research and publishing. Over the last 10 years, an urban renewal has taken hold in downtown's art deco skyscrapers and warehouses, revitalizing disused spaces into lofts, condos, retail developments and restaurants.

Places To Go Bicycling In Birmingham
According to Steve Fair with the Birmingham Bicycle Club, the best place to go cycling in Birmingham is the Shades Creek Greenway Trail. In the region, Steve suggests Oak Mountain State Park, Cheaha State Park, Talladega National Forest, Choccolocco Wildlife Management Area, Bankhead National Forest and the Chief Ladiga/Silver Comet trail from Anniston AL. to Atlanta, GA.

Shades Creek Greenway Trail
Running alongside Shades Creek in Homewood, this paved trail offers plenty of shade and picnic spots on a hot summer day. Fairly level, this is a family oriented trail within the city and very near to Brookwood Mall. No cars are allowed on the trail which is presently 5 miles long.

Oak Mountain State Park
Oak Mountain S.P.'s 17-mile Red Trail loop attracts mountain bikers from as far away as Florida and Louisiana. Built in 1993 by the Birmingham Urban Mountain Peddlers (BUMP), this combination of single track and an old two-lane fire road offers grueling climbs, rocketing downhills and hairpin turns, with sheer drops off the sides and an elevation gain of up to 500'. Several trailheads offer parking & access to the loop.

For those wanting a more relaxed road ride, there is also a bike lane running on the side of Oak Mountain's main road. The lane passes 3 lakes and wooded areas with plenty of wildlife including turkeys and deer. Although the bike lane has several minor climbs, the length of these stretches will grab your attention. Total distance round trip is about 15 miles.

The popularity of the Red Trail has led to other nearby state parks, national forests and wildlife management areas opening trails to mountain bikers. Cheaha State Park has completed a mountain bike trail, the Kentuck Off-Road Trail has opened in the Talladega National Forest as has a trail at the Choccolocco Wildlife Management. Currently, 30 miles of off-road vehicle trails are being built at the Bankhead National Forest.

Chief Ladiga/Silver Comet Rail Trails
Those who are interested in traveling a few miles should consider riding the Chief Ladiga Trail 70 miles northeast of B'ham in Anniston. Currently, the trail currently goes from Anniston to Piedmont, stopping just 8 miles short of the Georgia line; however, paving work on that section is currently under way. When that work has been completed in coming months, the Chief Ladiga will connect seamlessly with the Silver Comet Trail. Cyclists will then be able to bike on a paved, non-motorized trail all the way to Smyrna (a suburb of Atlanta). The current distance for the Alabama section is 25 miles (one way). Since the trail is built on an abandoned rail line, the steepest grade is around 2%, making the trail inviting for families. Picnic spots are easily accessed by car in Jacksonville and Piedmont too.

More Bicycling Info
Each weekend and several evenings every week, the Birmingham Bicycle Club sponsors rides of varying difficulty and distance. For information, call Homewood Cycle at 205-879-3244.

More About Birmingham
For more about other attractions or accommodations in this diverse city, contact the Greater Birmingham CVB at 205-458-8000.

My special thanks go to Vickie Ashford and Steve Fair for their help & suggestions.

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