A few months ago, I subscribed to Bicycling Magazine. As part of the subscription deal, I was supposed to receive a booklet titled, “The Best Rides In America.” After three months, I had assumed I would never receive this “free gift,” so imagine my surprise when it came in the mail yesterday! I was eager to learn what rides might be near my home and searched for the section on Virginia.
Now imagine my disappointment when I discovered there was no such section. Nor was there a section for the slightly-far-away Maryland. It turns out that the editors of Bicycling Magazine do not deem any rides in these states as worthy of inclusion in their 49-page booklet. If I want to partake in one of their rides, I must travel to southern Pennsylvania or eastern Tennessee. Sigh.
A clarification is in order at this point: when I say there are no rides in VA, I am referring to road rides. The booklet is divided into three sections: road rides, trail rides, and urban rides. There are, in fact, trail rides in VA and MD. There is also an urban ride described for Washington, DC. This is not much comfort for me in that I am far more interested in quality road rides than the other two categories. I also quickly discovered that several of the Virginia rides were tucked into the remotest part of the state and could not be visited without a concerted (and highly unlikely) effort on my part.
For what it’s worth, these are the trail and urban rides for VA, MD, and DC:
Mock Holler Loop, Damascus. The 9.3-mile loop is technical and strenuous: You gain 1,000 feet over 2.5 miles, then descend Iron Mountain. NOTE: this is barely within Virginia in the extreme SW corner of the state, over 500 miles from my house. It’s not likely I’ll visit there anytime soon!
Panorama Trails, Earlysville. Hills, forests, singletrack, and panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 25 miles of singletrack traversing 850 acres. This one is about 100 miles away from me. Seems a bit much to travel just for 25 miles of cycling.
Virginia Creeper Trail, Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, Marion. The 6-foot-wide cinder trail leads 34 miles to the town of Abingdon. Stone markers tick off each mile along the trail, which offers views of wildlife, waterfalls, and scarred deep gorges. There are 47 trestles, some as high as 100 feet. This is almost as far away as Mock Holler Loop – well over 450 miles.
The Washington, DC, urban ride can be found in Wakefield and Accotink parks, which are connected by a doubletrack gravel path. Truth be told, this location is actually well outside of DC in Springfield, VA, and can hardly be described as “urban.”
Cedarville State Forest, Brandywine. Maryland’s entry is a 3,500-acre forest 20 miles southeast of Washington, DC. The ride consists primarily of flat trails with occasional steep, short hills. This is actually the closest to my home, although traffic on the Wilson Bridge could make it seem like it is on another continent.
Since I am not a major consumer of trail rides and the nearest road ride is two states away, this book is of little use to me. I’ll place it on my bookshelf with my growing collection of cycling references on the off chance it will come in handy one day.