This van-supported grand tour of the Atlantic Coast leads past battlefields and other reminders of the American Revolution and the Civil War; through our country’s earliest European settlements, Jamestown and St. Augustine, and a handful of major cities; and to the doorstep of the homes of two of our most accomplished presidents. We’ll also trace the history of flight, from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina — where a pair of bicycle builders known as the Wright Brothers first put wing to air in 1903 — to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Here, on July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 launch took place, and four days later the spaceship landed on the moon.
But we’ll remain down to Earth for this terrific ride. Going from Key West, Florida, through Bar Harbor, to the Canadian border in Calais, the Atlantic Coast Route will take us through the “best of the East,” a spectrum of beauty that is often subtle but at other times eyepopping. We’ll spin through quiet farm country, lush state parks, and refuges teeming with wildlife. So much more than a 63-day, 2,864-mile bike tour up the Eastern Seaboard — this tour is a history lesson on the go, where the past comes to life in dynamic ways.
|Start Date:||Apr 30, 2015||End Date:||Jul 01, 2015|
|Start Location:||Ft. Lauderdale, FL||End Location:||Bangor, ME|
|Total Days:||63||Riding Days:||53|
|Average Daily Mileage:||54.2||Surface:||Paved|
|Riders:||13||Airport:||Bangor Int'l, ME; Key West, FL (EYW)|
|Tour Leader:||Creed McPherson, Heather Myers||Meals:||Shared cooking|
|Physical Difficulty:||Advanced||Level of Support:||Van Supported|
After gathering in Fort Lauderdale and starting our shuttle to Key West, Jimmy Buffet tunes will come to mind as we search for Margaritaville in the Florida Keys, that pearl-necklace string of some 1,700 islands whose “bottom” marks the southernmost point in the contiguous U.S. Each of the Keys offers its own information center with listings of local happenings and attractions. Starting at milepost 0 of US Route 1, we will ride along many of the keys: Key West, Big Pine Key, Marathon, Islamorada and Key Largo. We will finish the week riding past our original start location of Ft. Lauderdale; making our way North.
We’ll start the week at the Backpackers Beach Hostel in Fort Lauderdale, famous among spring breakers of yore and for an extensive canal system that’s earned it the moniker “the Venice of America.” From here on north, the route alternates between urban and suburban conditions. We’ll no doubt detect the roar of stock cars as we pass through the Daytona Beach vicinity, birthplace of NASCAR. We’ll also enjoy an overnight in Bellwood, located just six miles from the Kennedy Space Center.
We’ll enjoy a layover day in the oldest continually occupied European-settled city in the United States, St. Augustine. Continuing our self-powered journey through the past and present, we’ll skirt around the congestion of Jacksonville and then head inland.
After leaving the beautiful state of Florida and into Georgia, we’ll tour the mother of all swamps, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge — keeping an eye out, of course, for Pogo Possum and his compadres (alligators included). Near Reidsville we’ll camp at lovely Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park, whose unusual name derives from the rare Gordonia tree, a member of the bay family that once grew here, and the original spelling of the Altamaha River that flows nearby. Continuing in Georgia, we’ll have a long piece of inland riding, passing through Savannah and Statesboro, made famous in rock ’n’ roll circles by the Allman Brothers’ cover of “Statesboro Blues,” a 1920s Blind Willie McTell composition. We will end the week in South Carolina at Givhans Ferry State Park, with its shaded sites and put-in for canoeing the Edisto River, the longest free-flowing blackwater stream in North America.
Charleston, South Carolina the most hospitable and beautiful city in the South is on our agenda as we take a spur into the city. Highlights include the wonderful parade of antebellum homes lining Battery Park, and Fort Sumter National Monument, where the first shots of the Civil War resounded on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery opened fire on the federal fort located in Charleston Harbor. After a ride through some farms and swamps it is Surf City, here we come! Though it may be a continent away from the Surf City the Southern California duo Jan & Dean sang about, this is no inland town, either. Residing on Topsail, a 26-mile-long barrier island, the area is heralded for some of the most unspoiled and uncrowded beaches on the entire East Coast.
We’ll take a layover day at the Outer Banks Hostel and Campground in Kitty Hawk, where we can visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The subsequent ride along Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a sandscape that is constantly changing due the action of wind and waves, is one you will long remember — even lacking a Blackbeard the Pirate sighting. Before we know it, we will leave coastal North Carolina and the blustery Outer Banks heading inland to farm country and one of the oldest working farms in America; Chippokes Plantation State Park. Taking the ferry across the James River you will think we have landed in colonial America as we ride through historic Jamestown and Williamsburg. We end the week as we begin to leave the “South” making our way via a mix of quiet, hilly Virginia country byways and busy urban roads leading us to Richmond, where we’ll sense things beginning to feel more “Southern” — and not surprisingly so, considering that this city was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Having begin the in the vicinity of Fredericksburg, Virginia, where we have our first brush with a major Civil War battlefield. Moving toward our Nation’s capital we will travel along a well-utilized bike path southward to Washington’s Mount Vernon, where the Father of Our Nation resided until his death in 1799. We will take a day to visit the National Mall and other famous sites. Traveling across Maryland and Pennsylvania we will traverse Amish country, no doubt sharing the roads with horse-drawn buggies as we make our way to Philadelphia. We’ll visit evocative Valley Forge National Historical Park, where Washington built his Continental Army into a fighting force over the winter of 1777-78, despite ravaging cold, hunger, and disease. According to the National Park Service, the 3,600-acre park “commemorates the sacrifices and perseverance of the Revolutionary War generation and honors the ability of citizens to pull together and overcome adversity during extraordinary times.”
In Philadelphia, we will have a chance to visit sites and attractions like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the National Constitution Center on a rest day. We will depart the City of Brotherly Love and ride into in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Middle Delaware River makes a run of some 40 miles through a hill country so wild that it might take you by surprise. After riding through a gorgeous stretch of New Jersey along the Delaware River we will enter Port Jervis, New York and on to Hyde Park, New York and a visit to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Historic Site near Hyde Park, New York, Roosevelt once famously said, “All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River.” And when you see that home, known as Springwood, and its setting, you will understand why he felt this way.
The start of our final two weeks we will find ourselves threading our way through the heart of (very) hilly New England by way of Connecticut and Rhode Island, visiting wall-calendar-worthy villages like Thompson and Pleasant Valley. You will shout “the British are coming, the British are coming” as you ride your way into colonial America and the Minuteman National Historical Park, situated between Lexington and Concord, where the opening battle of the American Revolution is brought to life through exhibits and docent activities. We may take a 35-mile spur to explore the city of Boston. In any case we will finish our last week in the towns of Exeter and Derry, New Hampshire.
You will be asking yourself “where did the weeks go” as the tiny New England states whiz by after we enter our last state and first evening in Maine at Wells, founded in 1643 and one of the state’s oldest communities. We will leave the coast again and spend one night near Sebago Lake, the deepest (more than 300 feet in places) and second largest lake in the Pine Tree State and skirt the hustle and bustle of Portland. After a short inland jaunt, we head back to the shoreline as we set sail up the Eastern Seaboard, passing through gorgeous coastal towns like Camden and Damariscotta. Bar Harbor is our next stop along with a ride along the old carriage paths webbing Acadia National Park. We end our long journey on the Canadian border in the US town of Callais, ME, pronounced callous. We will celebrate our new found friendships and accomplishments with a great dinner and restful night before we shuttle back to Bangor, ME and depart each other’s company. Job well done!
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