• Wm Bracknell

Biking and Beaching in Down East Virgina


The Tobacco Heritage and The Virginia Capital Trail

October 31-Nov 2, 2016 and April 11-12, 2017

Rhonda and I took a short trip to Virginia Beach on Halloween. It was off season and the hotel rates were very good. We booked a room at the Boardwalk Resort and Villias for Monday the 31st and Tuesday, the 1st of November. It was right on the beach and we had a super view of the ocean from our room. The trip had two objectives. One, to add another bike trail to my collection and the other was to relax and get some seafood at the beach with no crowds.

The trail was the Tobacco Heritage Trail which began just east of South Hill, Virginia in LaCrosse and ended in Lawerenceville for a total of 17 miles. It had not been opened long which was evidenced by the new bridges, signs, and fixtures such as benches, picnic tables and toilets. It had formally been the NF&D railroad line and was purchased from Norfork Southern. The process had began back in 2004 and took way too long to get it open.

The day was slightly overcast with an ideal temperature for riding. I only saw one rider and several walkers. There had been some comments about the trail surface being poor in a few spots, but I found it to be in excellent shape for a non-paved trail. Much of the trail was in the woods and away from development and residences.

At the beach the next day, we rode together on the special bikeway along the beach and down the streets behind the hotel. The off season is nice to have less crowded conditions, but we were surprised to see how many places were closed for the season, even a Subway. We went to aquarium a few miles away and enjoyed the inside and outside exhibits. Our seafood quest was satisfied at Waterman's Surfside Grille.

On the morning of the third day, we drove to Yorktown and took the parkway from there to Jamestown, going through Williamsburg. At Jamestown Island, we biked the loop trail with interpretive signs telling about the first permanent settlement. We also discovered the Virginia Capital Trail which began in Jamestown and went 51 miles to Richmond, connecting the original capital of Williamsburg to the current capital. It ran along the John Tyler Highway (Va highway 5) and was established by the Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia State Parks and the VCT Foundation. It had been opened less than a year. It was a tremendous recreation asset for Richmond and the tourist areas of Williamsburg.

I knew immediately knew I wanted to ride it and knew I wanted to experience it with my good friend Chuck North. Chuck and I started out as backpacking partners close to 30 years ago. After having knee problems, he turned to biking and became an avid rider ever since.

As spring came and warm weather was upon us, we began planning a date we could get together and make the trip to ride it. Chuck could have easily rode it in a day, but I wanted to ride it in two days. For one, I had not been riding as regular as him and I was not sure about the nerve in my posterior that give me a problem every now and then.

We sat a tenative date of April 5 and 6 for the ride and Chuck lined up an Air B&B north of the trail on the Chickahominy River near Lanexa. It was like a mother-in-law appartment attached to a larger house. It was just what we needed. There was a full kitchen, a living area and two bedrooms, one up stairs and one downstairs. It was only $75 and we split it.

Our first day was going to be on Wednesday and afterwards Chuck and Christine were going on to the Chesapeake Bay area to visit Christine's sister. As the time drew near, a big storm came up the coast and rain and wind was predicted for that Thursday, so we move the dates to the next week. We originally were going to meet at the start in Richmond and ride to a halfway point the first day and end up in Jamestown the second day. When we the changed the dates, we decided to meet in Jamestown after Chuck and Christine had their visit with her sister.

Rhonda and I stayed with my sister and brother-in-law in Youngsville, N. C. so we would not have as long a drive on the first ride day. We agreed to meet at the U.S. Park Service office at 11am. Chuck had just turned 62 and was getting his geezers pass (Golden Pass Port for Seniors). I had misplaced my pass and decided to get a replacement before they went up to $80.

After we ate a picnic lunch together in the Jamestown Settlement parking lot, we headed out to our afternoon rendezvous point of Herring Creek about 27miles down the trail to the west. It was an absolutely a perfect day. It was sunny and about 72°. The only negative thing was there was a headwind, but it wasn't constant. The trail had great signage with mile markers and miles to various points. There were also historical signs and locations of many of the old plantations along the way.

We arrive at Herring Creek only a short time ahead of the ladies. From there, we drove to the Air B&B, and got situated. After a bit of rest, Chuck and I made a tour of the neighborhood on the bikes. We both bought food to share and I cooked pork chops on the grill the owner said we could use. The last user had not cleaned it so I spent about fifteen to twenty minutes cleaning it.

After supper, we cleared the table and sat down for a game of spades. They had boned up on the game by playing on their phones since we introduce them to the game we had played down in the Keys in March. They were beating us quite soundly until we made a end of game come back and they made a risky bid. I had drawn a hand like I have never had. Together we bid a nine and made it.

The next mornnig we were back down to the trail to continue our journey on to Richmond. As we got closer to the east side of Richmond, we had to ride a few sidewalks to get by some businesses and then back on to the trail. The trail end up right down on a canal beside the James River under the I-95 bridge at Dock St. We had a picnic lunch at the Great Shiplock Park beside the trail before departing to our respective destinations. Chuck expressed an interest to go back and bike the whole trail again in a day on one of their trips to visit Christine's sister. It was such a nice trail, I wouldn't mind riding it again.


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