This week, we’re on vacation! My sainted wife, my youngest son, his friend, and I are staying at Fort Story, Virginia, right next to Virginia Beach. It’s quiet, the beach is fantastic and the weather has been great.
And yes, I brought my bicycle.
For today’s ride, I set off at 7:00 AM toward Virginia Beach (only four miles away) in order to ride the length of the board walk. After leaving Fort Story’s main gate, I headed south on the appropriately-named Atlantic Boulevard. After 40 table-top flat blocks of very little traffic – being a Washingtonian, I am always fascinated by the rush hour traffic (or lack thereof) in various parts of the world – I reached 40th Street and the start of the boardwalk.
The boardwalk consists of two parts: a very wide cement path for pedestrians and a relatively narrow asphalt path for cyclists. For the most part, each group stays on the appropriate path, but not always. I was surprised by the number of people up and about at such an early hour. People were clearly trying to make the most of their holiday time. There were plenty of cyclists, almost all of whom were sporting a classic cruiser bicycle. If Canberra is the city of mountain bikes, London is all about commuters, and Tampa is about no bikes whatsoever, Virginia Beach is the city of cruiser bikes and people riding them slowly. Fully decked out in cycling bibs, jersey, helmet, gloves, and shades, I felt a little out of place amongst surfer-dudes and vacationers looking to take in the morning air.
After four miles, I reached the end of the boardwalk and came across about 30 surfers enjoying the morning waves. About 100 yards from them were some recreational fisherman plying the waters of an inlet. At this point, I saw my only two roadies of the entire trip. They seemed as surprised to see me as I did them. They zipped northward on Atlantic while I continued southward across a small bridge over the inlet.
I was riding on a path called The Maritime Trail. At points, this was a proper mixed-use path. At other points, the trail was the boardwalk. At a few places, the trail was nothing more than a sidewalk. It seems to me that just because you put up signs on a sidewalk and name it The Maritime Trail, it doesn’t mean you’ve actually improved the cycling infrastructure. I’ve noticed this tendency throughout the town – roads with no shoulder and a traditional sidewalk have signs placed that confidently announce “Bike Trail” when there is nothing there of the sort.
After a couple of miles, I came upon an aquarium at a busy intersection and decided this was a good point to turn around and head home. As I reached the Boardwalk, it was past 8:00 AM and the scene was coming to life. There were many pedestrians, roller bladers, surfers, and cyclists about. Two bike rental shops were already open and people were bringing bikes onto to the path. The holiday scene wakes up early! I stopped by a large statue of Neptune and posed the Trek with him for a photo.
I made it back to Ft. Story in plenty of time to engage in traditional beach holiday activities, namely laying about at the beach. I was intrigued by the cycling scene at Virginia Beach. The town has huge numbers of cyclists and they are clearly a part of the fabric of the city. The fact that almost every cyclist is riding a cruiser at under 10 mph makes it a very unique experience. Finally, I cycled for 19 miles and climbed only 68 feet in elevation. That’s about as flat a place as you can find short of a salt flat, which gives me an idea for tomorrow’s ride – my own little time trial on a lap around the fort.
Historical Marker Segment!
It has been many weeks since I captured a new marker. As historical markers go, this one is a little weak. But beggars can’t be choosers and we’ll allow this testament to corporate sponsorship of urban renewal to count.