Take Your Bike

By Thelma Gillette #88013
Photos by John Gillette & Thelma Gillette #88013.

We are not mountain bikers or long-distance bikers, but during our 12 years full-time RVing, my husband, John, and I are glad we brought our bikes along. They were always handy to tour a new campground, run errands and once to go to church. Along the way, we also found wonderful opportunities to use our bikes. Following are a few of our many biking excursions.

Erie Canal Bike Trail System
Albany, New York
In New York, you can find the Erie Canal bike trail system. This is a wonderful scenic and historic bike trail that is 380 miles long, and it begins in Albany and ends in Buffalo. Mostly paved, with some crushed stone, it follows the towpath of the Erie Canal, so it is a nice and level ride. The towpath served as the path for the draft animals that pulled the barges along the Erie Canal.

We have biked many miles of this bike trail, and one of our favorites begins in Genesee Valley Park in Rochester and ends in Fairport. We usually bike to Fairport, have lunch and bike back to Genesee Valley Park. It passes through many towns that grew up because of the Erie Canal, so there are many lovely villages to explore. It also joins up with bike trails along the Mohawk River in the Albany area.

In John Boyd Thacher State Park, there is a 25-mile leg of the trail meandering through the Mohawk Valley region, with views of the Adirondack Mountains. There are very few access points to this trail that are large enough for an RV. We have a bike rack that fits on our truck, so when we are in a campground, we can put our bikes on the bike rack and drive our truck to the trail head.

Stowe Recreation Path
Stowe, Vermont

We discovered the Stowe Recreation Path that begins off Main Street in Stowe, Vermont. An easy, level, 5.3-mile paved trail affords beautiful views of the nearby mountains, a pretty New England church and the von Trapp Lodge. Small, attractive bridges cross the West Branch River along the trail. Picnic tables are available for a picnic lunch. This is a trail that has no parking for RVs, so you’ll need a bike rack to transport your bikes to the trail head.
Shark Valley, Everglades National Park
Miami, Florida

One of our favorite bike trails in Florida is Shark Valley in Everglades National Park. It is located on the northern border of the park. The trail is a flat, paved 15-mile loop that crosses a sawgrass prairie. Halfway around the trail is an observation tower from which you can view numerous alligators that live in a pond at the foot of the tower. The best time to bike this trail is in the winter. The winter is the dry season in Florida, but there is always water in Shark Valley. Because of this, the birds and alligators congregate here. On our last visit, besides seeing alligators, we viewed blue herons, wood storks and roseate spoonbills, among other colorful birds. If you don’t have a bike, you can rent one for eight dollars an hour. The loop takes two to three hours to cover. Shark Valley is located on route 41. There is parking there for RVs.
Pigeon Key
Marathon, Florida

Pigeon Key is another great biking opportunity in Florida. It is a short, wonderful ride across a bridge over the beautiful water of the Gulf of Mexico to the historic island of Pigeon Key. It is completely paved and is only four miles round trip. On the way, we have seen dolphins, sharks and a spectacular breeching sea ray. The bridge taking you to Pigeon Key is part of the original railroad bridge that Henry Flagler built when he built the “railroad that went to sea.” This was the railroad connecting Key West to the mainland of Florida that was completed in 1912 and called the eighth wonder of the world. You must stop at the Pigeon Key Visitor Center and pay a fee before riding all the way to Pigeon Key. When you reach the island, you can tour the historic buildings. This was originally the site of a work-camp used while Henry Flagler built the historic seven-mile bridge. You can view a movie about the building of the Flagler railroad, and a tour guide presents an informative talk. We always packed a lunch as there are picnic tables available. Also, there is great snorkeling here, so bring your snorkel gear!

This bike trail is located at mile marker 45 on Route 1, west of Knight’s Key and east of Moser Key. There is no parking for RVs, and a bike rack is necessary.

Edisto Island
Edisto Island, South Carolina

Another easy, paved bike trail with flat terrain is located on the enchanting Edisto Island in South Carolina. There is a 10-mile, round-trip trail that begins behind Piggly Wiggly, runs through jungle-like woods and then curves around lagoons of Fairfield Plantation until reaching the marina. Then it is time to turn around and return. An added advantage is that you can camp in Edisto Beach State Park. This is a lovely park where you can choose campsites on the ocean under palm trees or in the wooded areas. The park contains glistening beaches chock-full of shells. Edisto Island is located on State Highway 174 and about one hour south of Charleston. If you camp at Edisto Island State Park, you can access the trail head easily.
Jekyll Island
Jekyll Island, Georgia

Not too far south of Edisto Island is the fascinating Jekyll Island, with 20 miles of mostly paved bike paths. You can ride your bike past beaches, forests, ponds, marshes and the historic landmark district. You can even ride your bike on the hard-packed sand of the beaches. A good place to camp on the island is the Jekyll Island Campground. If you don’t have bikes, you can rent them at the campground. Also, use your bike to explore the Jekyll Island historic district. In operation from 1888 through 1942, this 249-acre area of Jekyll Island was once a winter retreat of the very wealthy. The Astors, Rockefellers and Morgans built vacation homes and a 60-room clubhouse. Most of the buildings are still intact, and many have guided tours. The island was sold to the State of Georgia in 1947.

Kettle Valley Rail Trail
Kelowna, British Columbia
One of our all-time favorite bike trips was on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. This is part of the Trans-Canada Trail that goes from British Columbia all the way to the Maritime Provinces in Canada. We biked the Myra Canyon portion of the Kettle Canyon located south of Kelowna. This is a rail-to-trails bike trail, so it has a grade of two percent or less. There are many trestles along this section of the bike trail, and some are hundreds of feet in height. There are also wooden tunnels to bike through. It was an amazing, quiet ride through beautiful scenery, completely removed from civilization.

We biked this trail in 2003 and, a few weeks after we left, a fire caused by lightning destroyed much of it. We were happy to hear shortly after this disaster that the Canadian government would rebuild the trail. To reach the Myra Canyon trail head, take KVR #36 road to avoid a steep hill. There is no place to park an
RV, so you must have a bike rack on your vehicle.

Pine Creek Trail
Wellsboro, Pennsylvania

Another great rails-to-trails bike path is the Pine Creek Trail in western Pennsylvania. It follows the Pine Creek Gorge, which is often called the Grand Canyon of the East. It is 60 miles long and made of crushed limestone. There are many sights to see along this trail, including pine creek, waterfalls and unique rock formations. We also saw diverse wildlife along the trail, including deer, hawks, osprey and a rattlesnake. There are many state parks along the length of the trail for camping, and the trail is accessible from Leonard Harrison State Park, Colton Point State Park and Little Pine State Park.

Yosemite Valley
Yosemite, California
Yosemite Valley is only a mile wide and 7.5 miles long. By riding your bike to visit the valley, you can arrive at the wonderful sights between visits by the tour buses. It was wonderful seeing El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks, Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite Falls and the other wonderful vistas of the park without the crowds. Halfway around, you can have lunch at the Yosemite Lodge food court and then continue your tour. There is camping in the Yosemite Valley Campground.

I hope I have convinced you to take your bike and experience the many wonderful adventures we
have enjoyed.

Thelma and her husband, John, retired in their 50s and set out to live their dream of full-time RVing. Two years of travel stretched out to 12 years of traveling to every state in the U.S. They volunteered in Hawaii at national parks, where they received free housing, and also spent four months in Mexico. They are now snowbirds who spend their summers in a small home in the village of Geneseo in western New York, and in the winter they travel to the Florida Keys and volunteer in state parks.

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