Leaders: Organized by Sherwood Byers and Linda Bankerd; routes by Walt Roscello
Members: Sherwood Byers, Linda Bankerd, Walt Roscello, Wayne Hunt, Joan Oppel, Sue Estes, and Mark Finisecy
Route: Routes are at https://ridewithgps.com/events/104583-richmond-williamsburg-3-day-ride . Down and back on the trail, with some diversions for variety. Sunday we took the ferry to the south side of the James River and did a loop in quiet Surry county.
Weather: Almost perfect - 65 to 83 degrees with partly to mostly cloudy skies.
Mechanicals/Mishaps: I fell over on a gravel road (that we could have avoided) and scraped my arm a bit. There were two other dropped chains on Monday. Other than that, no incidents, not even a flat. Sherwood had to go back to Linda's car on Saturday because he left a sandwich in there and didn't want to leave it for three days.
Report: We were at different parking lots, so we made our way in smaller groups to Great Shiplock Park, less than a mile from downtown. Wayne and I discovered a new pedestrian plaza at 17th and Main, then explored the Canal Walk area (well worth a visit, especially the west end which documents the water-powered industry) before heading to our rendez-vous. After checking out the lock and getting a picture (of 5 of us, with Sherwood and Linda off to the sandwich), we were off on the trail, but only for 4 miles before the first diversion. We rode around 11 miles on Osborne Turnpike which was an excellent choice, it was probably quieter than the trail and had great scenery, including one stretch where it splits into two one-lane roads and runs under cedar trees for a mile or more. After rejoining the trail, at one point we all stopped as we were surprised to see large cotton fields adjacent to Shirley Plantation. We all thought it wasn't grown this far north, although we later saw many other fields during the weekend. Some also stopped for a picture of the Sherwood Forest Plantation sign. Upon entry to Charles City we stopped at the local "LOVE" artwork (pictures posted elsewhere) as it featured a bicycle, then went and had lunch at the Courthouse Grill, then a quick tour of the historic buildings in town (you can see the entire town at once when standing in the right spot, so a tour is quick). As it was now after 3:00 and we had 25 miles to go, we rode steadily down the trail, enjoying the view while crossing the Chickahominy River high bridge, but not stopping. The last 5 miles were on main roads, but the shoulders were ample and this is an experienced group, so there was no difficulty. (Although not complete, there were quite a few areas with marked bike lanes in Williamsburg.) We pulled into the hotels shortly after 5, cleaned up, and walked to dinner.
Is it a good day when it takes 8 hours to ride 48 miles? Yes, it is actually an excellent day! On Sunday, Sue and Mark toured the city on foot and by transit, while the rest of us went on a day ride. Although I had mapped a 61 mile route and some were willing to do it, I suggested we all do the 43 mile alternate so we could keep the group together. After starting with a ride through the William and Mary campus (which included discovering that one of the "roads" I had routed us on was actually a pedestrian cafe area), we headed to the Jamestown Ferry, which is free (run by the state) and a unique thing to have on a bike ride. At the Scotland end we discovered that the neighborhood road I had routed on to get off the main road was dirt, and that is where I fell over. After getting cleaned up and riding up the hill, we found that the neighborhood diversion was only about 200 yards! D'oh, I had forgotten how short it was and we could have easily avoided the dirt for minimal extra time on the highway. But from there it was pleasant riding on extremely quiet roads, until we got to Chippokes Plantation State Park. Turns out, it was the 400th anniversary of the plantation! Unfortunately, the events were in the afternoon, but we toured the visitor center, enjoyed another view of the James, and started reading all the plaques at the old structures. That lead to a tour of the main house's old kitchen and laundry and a walk around the exterior. After our time at the park, it was back to almost empty roads for 10 miles to the town of Surry. After riding back and forth through the town to scope out the food choices, we ended up at the ham store (really!) as they made deli sandwiches on the premises. After eating outside, it was time for more riding, but just 4.5 miles to the ferry. With a slight tailwind, the knowledge it was downhill to the river, uncertainty about the ferry times, and a smooth road, Joan suggested we have some fun and see how fast we could get there. And I can tell you, because I was right behind her, that we averaged 18.5 mph for that stretch. We found a line of cars for the ferry, but felt no remorse in bypassing it as the corner we used for the bicycles didn't take away a car space. The ferry actually filled and left cars on the dock. I can also report, as my phone GPS ran all day, that the ferries run around 13-15 mph as well, just like a cyclist. Once on the north shore again, we headed for Jamestown for a walking tour of the excavations and recreated fort walls. On the return to Williamsburg, a bike/ped only passage at the end of a dead end gave us an alternate route. We again cleaned up and walked to dinner, rejoining Sue and Mark and exchanging stories of the day.
Monday was our return day, but we weren't too anxious as we still had 57 miles to ride. We again did our first 7 miles on main roads, but traffic was not heavy and we had a shoulder. Our first stop was the Chickahominy Riverfront Park - I wanted to check it out as a future camping spot, and I would recommend it as they have rental canoes and are right on the water, 10 miles from Williamsburg. They also have bathrooms (and a pool). After a convenience store stop near Charles City (too early for lunch), we left the trail for an alternate route on country roads. These, too, turned out to be extremely quiet and, though there were a few rises, the break from the trail was welcome. After 13 miles we rejoined the trail, seeing the sights we had seen on the way out again. 49 miles into the day and only 9 miles from the end, we stopped at an Italian restaurant in a shopping center. It was another good meal (Sue, I won't disclose what you chose to order). The last miles went quickly and easily and we soon found ourselves in the city again. One last adventure was having both the trail and the parallel road closed for about 4 blocks before we were to get off it, so we rode some city streets following the detour and headed for our cars. We arrived around 2:30 so had no problem getting home at a good time.
I've left out a description of all the rolling conversations we had in varying pairs and groups during the ride. The relaxed approach to the ride and the optimism of the group was a large part of the success (though the favorable weather didn't hurt morale either). Also, as the route planner working only from maps in a new area, I am thrilled that it turned out so well and everyone enjoyed the routing. This trip was a blast and I hope we can do some similar trips in the future.