Thursday, October 23, 2014

Richmond's Tour de Fall Line

The NoVA epic, Stokesville, Patapsco, Spruce Knob, Rattling Creek, Stowe, Big Bear, my new Carbine had been ripping up trail with such ease, it just left me wanting more!  So I found myself on Bike Reg looking for fun recreational rides.  That’s when I first learned about the Tour de Fall Line, a fully supported 8 park tour of Richmond’s urban single track.  I had wanted to check out Richmond since a teammate returned from there with rave reviews.  This was the perfect chance; mapped and marked trails, aid stations, fun locals and an after party!  The Tour offers 50, 28, and 14 mile options, and if you would rather paddle down the river than ride, well they have that covered too!  Joel and I signed up for the 50, and finally recruited some lively cohorts.  Ernie, Larry, Howard and Mike rounded out our group for this not so little adventure.

It was going to be an early rise. Richmond is only about 100 miles south of the Washington D.C. area, but we all know well I-95 traffic at almost any time of day.  Luckily morning traffic cooperated and we arrived with plenty of time to sign in, get our gear together and mill around.  It was fun to see not only bikes, but boats!  The trail briefing was also promising.  In attendance were a Banana, several Vikings and maybe a Ram?  When the course director asked those who knew the course to raise their hands, our group quickly surveyed the field.  To say I was a little hesitant about the route is probably an understatement.  It was clear from the online maps and cue sheets (both well provided) that we were in an urban setting with lots of twists and turns, and those twists and turns might be very easy to miss!  

To whoops and hollers we took off mid-pack hoping to keep within an eye shot of the locals.  This made it really easy in the beginning, but pretty quickly we figured out the spray paint and ribbon markings which were tell tale of the trail.  They did not let us down, at every turn we would always just see another marker, a course marshal or rider.  Up cobblestone roads, over and under walkways, and bridges, and through a park we rode to a dewy wet downhill run that left me giggling from the shower.  A little single track later and we met the river walk where we were able to take in a full view of the upstream flow of the James.  With big round rocks poking their faces to the sun, and the cityscape in the background, this was the view I had heard about and was hoping for!  I ordered our group to a stop for a photo op.  While we lost the pack, it was worth it to me to take it in on such a beautiful day. 

Back on the bike we continued through tunnels, along canals, rivers and streams and of course on all different kinds of sweet single track.  There were flowy sections, twisty sections, whoopy sections and even a river valley with steep punchy sides and plenty of rock.  This rocky trail was my favorite, historically named the Buttermilk for the trade which passed through the area.  Even the neighborhood sections between parks were enjoyable, comfortable lots with old growth trees and lovely well-kept homes, all different with age, and many with beautiful sight lines to the James.

While at times this ride roamed peacefully and quietly through pine woods, there were also times where we were intimate with the weekend activities and general public.  These times are always challenging biking.  While our group is very conscious and respectful of shared spaces, and rights of way in traffic and with pedestrians, it was quickly noticeable to our group how generally welcoming the Richmond community was to our presence.  Could it be, they actually like bikers? I spoke with several aid station workers helping out not because they biked, but because of all the great work the RVA-MORE bikers and JROC paddlers do for the entire Richmond trails system.   This is impressive, and it made me glad that I had come out to support the Tour de Fall Line.  The money raised goes right back into the trails.  Thanks Richmond, and thanks to all who helped out with this event!  It will be hard to not return, and even this avid mountain biker would like to return to give the James a solid paddle try!

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