Monday, June 27, 2016

Adventures In Non-Roughing-It Bike Touring | Exploring Maryland's Eastern Shore

After nearly 18 years of marriage it's pretty obvious how each of us likes to mark our wedding anniversary: Me, on some ridiculous outdoor adventure, covered in muck and bug bites, and Shira, in a 5 star resort, soaking up luxury. We strive, therefore, to compromise. This year, we actually found a pretty solid balance. I got my outdoor adventure in the form of some bike touring and Shira avoided roughing it, by arranging for our base of operations to be a delightful bed and breakfast. The weather even cooperated, and the result was a fantastic weekend.

On Friday, we made our way to the quaint town of Oxford, MD. From there we jumped on the Oxford-Belleuvue Ferry and started our 7 miles or so ride to St. Michaels, MD. The ferry was an awesome way to start our weekend: it's history (the "nation's oldest privately operated ferry service") and romance (ahhh, to be on the open sea! minus the waves of the open sea) all in one.

The ride to St. Michaels is part of a well known network of bike "trails" in the area. Trails earns quotes in the previous sentence because really the bike trails are simply roads with wide shoulders and/or the occasional watch for bikers signs. Most of the roads have minimal traffic on them, and the roads that did have heavy traffic had wide shoulders, so the claim of being a bike friendly area truly does hold.

Of course we showed up in St. Michaels two minutes before the Maritime Museum closed for the day. So classic. From there we explored the town and had a delicious meal at Gina's Cafe. Yum! We biked the 7 miles back to Oxford without incident.

The next day we woke up and rode an improvised 24 mile loop throughout the area (based on this route). While we were technically near water nearly the entire trek, we mainly saw farmland and open fields. It was most excellent. For some reason, the route suggested traversing the loop clockwise. We went counter-clockwise (wanting to finish with the section of trail we'd done the night before), and this turned out to be a very smart move. The only real hills we encountered were down-hills, and had we gone the recommended route, we'd have had to slog up them (OK, I'm being dramatic - this was nearly an all flat route). Still, I'd suggest the counter-clockwise approach.

We did lunch in Easton, which is a bustling metropolis when compared to Oxford. And from there we continued on until we came across the MEBA Merchant Marine Memorial. Naturally, we had to stop and explore. I'm sorry, but passing up giant anchors is just not an option for me. From there, we finished our loop and took the ferry back to Oxford.

We've only done one other extended bike ride, so we're still very much newbies at the idea of taking a whole day to just ride. We couldn't have selected a better route to build our skills with. Easy terrain, light traffic and beautiful scenery meant that this adventure just flew by and had me definitely wanting more.

On Saturday evening we enjoyed strolling through Oxford, dipping our feet in the bay and of course getting ice cream. It was the perfect blend of outdoorsy and romance.

On our way back to DC we stopped in Annapolis and did a bit of walking around. As if to underscore how little biking we had actually done, we happened to notice a finishing area for a race and a biker came through. As we took in the scene, we realized we had just witnessed Franco Micolini complete Race Across America. In 11 days, 20 hours he had covered 3069.25 miles, traveling from Oceanside, CA to the point where we had watched him roll through. Holy smokes! Now that's biking!

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