Where Prairies Meet Rockies

Air Force Academy Chapel

This striking building is the Chapel at the U.S. Air Force Academy. When the ambition is to build a national-monument calibre school in little time then including architecture such as this can go a long way toward accomplishing the goal.

Boulder … Denver … Colorado Springs, all major Colorado cities sitting at the edge of the Great Plains with their backs to the Rockies. All relatively close to one another and all very worthy of exploration. Here I paused for two days in my cross-country drive to get exercise and enjoy the uncharacteristically warm weather.  Continue reading

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A Path Down the Middle: C&O Canal

C&O Mile 0

Under the shadow of the Watergate and hidden behind a boat rental store you can find “Mile 0” of the C&O Canal. Here it drops into the Potomac which opens onto the Chesapeake and into the Atlantic Ocean.

Canal barges were pulled at four miles per hour but there was a time when people were betting they were the best option for moving goods, certainly better than those new-fangled trains. Hard to believe but in their infancy trains were slow and dangerous and didn’t have much of a hauling capacity. For a small window in history, the riverboat canal system and the railroad competed for supremacy. Seems hard to believe today.

America’s manifest destiny was to grow, to expand west. In post-colonial times this meant expand into the Ohio valley where fertile land and natural resources were bountiful. Critical to this expansion were communication and transportation and this meant connecting the east coast with the Ohio River. In the late 1700s this stirred the development of the C&O Canal along the Potomac River to link the Chesapeake Bay with the Ohio River. America was moving west.  Continue reading

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Getting into Cardiff by Bike

Cardiff by Bike

Part of adventuring is setting yourself up for unplanned discovery. This creature I stumbled upon while walking through a park from A to B. Wow! What in impression it made ... serendipitous joy.

My first full day that focused exclusively on Cardiff required an overview. I hired a bike for three hours and set out to see the city. The experience reminded me of why I take a bicycle with me on road trips. I saw ten times more than I would have walking and when I was done my feet weren’t killing me. There was a lot to see; I came away impressed.

Where I’m staying is across the River Taff from downtown so I was already getting familiar with the lay of the land in that part of the city. What I hadn’t even seen was further south, toward Cardiff Bay, where in the past 20 years a massive redevelopment project has transformed what was once the world’s busiest port. Continue reading

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Cumberland Tri-State

Cumberland Tri-State

The National Park Service is my favorite branch of the U.S. govt. It preserves and operates many of the wonders of this country, the C&O Canal being only my latest example of this.

Long ago I learned about the skinniest stretch of Maryland’s panhandle. Then, in the last few months I experienced the character-filled, historic town of Cumberland which happens to be located at Maryland’s skinniest geography. To the south is West Virginia and to the north is Pennsylvania. Continue reading

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Harrisburg’s Riverfront

Harrisburgs Riverfront

The waterfront of Harrisburg along the Susquehanna River is well groomed with a two tier path, park grounds along the way and art everywhere. Great for a stroll or a bike ride.

It’s not part of some “grand plan” but many of the cities I visit lie along a river, the waterfronts are often revitalized, and with my bicycle in the back seat I can’t help but be tempted to take a ride. So I did.  Continue reading

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Charlottesville Day Trips

Charlottesville Day Trips

At Michie Tavern they serve a “Hearty Midday Faire” from 11:30 to 3:00 each day and they’ve been doing this since 1784. On metal plates under candle light I ate myself into a satisfying midday stupor.

inia State marketing would have you believe that “Virginia is for Lovers” but only now do I know what they mean. If you love history, if you love the outdoors, if you love variety then Virginia is for you. This little four-day trip based out of Charlottesville drove this point home for me.  Continue reading

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Hidden Roads of Acadia

Hidden Roads of Acadia

What a glorious structure! Rockefeller had seven world-class stone bridges build within Acadia’s Carriage Road network. They’re grand and well preserved and such a pleasure to admire.

I don’t know what makes Acadia National Park special but each time I visit it hits me anew. Perhaps it’s the clear still water of its many lakes? Maybe it’s the beautiful vistas along Park Loop Drive? Could it be the distant views from atop Cadillac Mountain? I say “Yes” to all and will add another: the majesty of its carriage roads.  Continue reading

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Three Bike Rides, Two Countries, One Day

Three Bike Rides, Two Countries, One Day

Looks like prison, right? Well, it is a “gaol” (jail) where I spent the night in cell 5 of block 6 in solitary. I’m not kidding! This jail in Ottawa operated from 1862 to 1972 and was the site where three men were hung!

I’ve a penchant for riding along waterfronts. While spending the night in my solitary confinement cell, I realized that today I could do something really special. Each of the towns I was visiting today had tremendous waterfronts and all three I knew had great bike paths. Montreal I’ve biked before, Ottawa I have toured extensively and via satellite images I was able to confirm that Burlington had a waterfront biking trail. I had a goal for the day!

To pull this off I had to start early. My first ride started in Ottawa at 7:30AM. With lots of hustle and a good measure of luck, I was able to finish my ride in Montreal by 3:00. This put me in Burlington by 5:30 which gave me a couple of hours to enjoy those trails. All-in-all I managed to put in over 27 miles of biking across three rides in two countries … all in a single day!

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy having my folding bike with me?!

See maps of my rides …  Continue reading

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The Great Expanse of Nothing

Great Expanse of Nothing

From the time you drop out of Glacier National Park till you arrive in Duluth, MN you’re driving the Great Plains. Here it spans three big states covering over 1,000 miles and all along there’s very little to see or do.

The Rockies-to-Plains contrast is stark no matter how many times I’ve experienced the transition. Whether I’ve just spent days running up and down and around mountains and drop into the plains or whether I’ve spent a week driving across the flat middle of our country and encountered the wall of the Rockies, I’m still never prepared for the contrast. That such great heights abut endless expanses of flatness is striking.

This time was no different though this time approaching the transition was complicated by weather. Knowing that a storm was approaching the Pacific Northwest, I tried to leave early and outrun it. My goal was to be on the east side of the Rockies before the snow hit. I almost made it Continue reading

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World’s Fair Riverside Park

Worlds Fair Riverside Park

It was getting dark and I was still running around taking pictures of the Spokane River Cascades. Ascending some stairs I found myself staring at this not-too-happy beaver. Hissing at me, it was!

Arrived in Spokane in the late afternoon but before finding my hotel I visited two spectacular parks: Manito and Riverside. The former was designed by the firm that did NYC’s Central Park while the latter was done for the 1974 World’s Fair. Both are varied, beautiful, well-maintained and very appealing.  Continue reading

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