Luke Church

Riding the Rails
Riding the Rails

After years of participating in the Multiple Sclerosis Society Tour de Vine fundraiser riding my road bike on the 25 mile route through the foothills of the Blue Ridge in Albemarle County, two things happened;  I laid my motorcycle down when a truck pulled out in front of me and my collarbone was broken and I was diagnosed with permanent lung damage from asthma (which explained why I was always out of breath on the route and had to walk my bike up a lot of the hills).

So, wanting to still ride my bike, and to continue to ride with my wife, we took up riding rail trails with me on my new comfort bike (it helped with the constant pain in my shoulder).  Rail trails are bike and hiking trails built on abandoned railroad lines, some paved, some with crushed gravel.

Rail trails are scenic, take your time, easygoing kind of rides.  And, with our ADD approach (oh, look at that, let’s stop), it is working out great.

Our first rail trail was the James River Heritage Trail in Lynchburg, a 12 mile round trip ride with a stop in the middle in downtown for lunch at the Depot Grille.

From there we decided to move up quickly and try a portion of the C&O Canal Trail, not technically a rail trail, but very picturesque and a great ride from Harper’s Ferry to Shepherdstown for lunch and back.  During that trip we stayed at Cacapon State Park and also rode the Western Maryland Rail Trail.  It was during this ride that a tradition began on our bike rides, searching for pie as a treat at the end of the ride.  We discovered Weaver’s Restaurant in Hancock, MD, highly recommended.

We have expanded our rides to include not only rail trails, but other rides we venture on our own, such as the ride from Rockbridge Baths, VA through Goshen Pass and a trip around Buggs Island Lake on the VA/NC border.  A ride through Civil War battlefields near Fredericksburg.  And, one of the best, the bike tour of DC, the only way to do the Mall and Smithsonian.

We have ridden almost all the rail trails in VA.  Our next goal is the Greenbrier River Trail in WV.

For more info on rail trials, check out the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

And, view some photos from our rides: