Winding Down to the Grand Départ - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

February 28, 2022 to March 4, 2022

Winding Down to the Grand Départ

In less than a week I leave for Paris and the beginning of my near-year in Europe. The recent events in Ukraine are alarming and horrifying, and give me slight pause on the cusp of my departure. I feel a bit guilty going to Europe on holiday while more than a million people are forced from their homeland by a maniacal thug. I will carry on as planned – knowing that things can change at a moment’s notice.

 The past two months have been spent trying to remain Covid-free while attending to the various check-ups and check-offs needed for an extended time away from home. The weather has conspired with my extensive to-do list to keep me off the bike, but cavities have been filled, taxes filed and both Vivien George and I passed our annual check-ups with only a few adjustments. Now, my to-do list is winding down and spring is emerging in the North Carolina – time to get out and ride. Besides, it’s past time to get  back in touring shape.

Shelley Lake, Feb 28

 Vivien George was back from her extended stay with Matt at Cycle Surgeon and we headed out with no particular destination in mind. The greater Raleigh-Durham area, also known as the Research Triangle, sits in the Piedmont region of North Carolina between the coastal plain and the Appalachian mountains. It is a once-forested region of rolling hills, rivers and streams. It is also an area with hundreds of miles of greenways winding along creeks and crossing over/under the complex of highways that typify modern day metro regions. I live in Cary, a sprawling suburban town with a patchwork of neighborhoods that extend far beyond the small downtown area I call home. Since moving here 18 months ago, I’ve spent many hours plotting various cycle routes connecting greenways and neighborhoods. On this day, I headed toward the North Carolina Museum of Art, one of my favorite rides.

 It was a great day for cycling - sunny, light breeze, with temperatures warming to the high 60s by afternoon. My route zig-zagged through wooded neighborhoods with wide streets and rolling terrain before turning north on a low-traffic road that took me past the NC State Small Ruminant Learning Center. I picked up the Reedy Creek Trail at an entrance to Umstead State Park, cycling along the edge of the park, past the NC State Equine Center, and through the NC Art Museum Park. This section of the Reedy Creek Trail through the Museum Park is part of the East Coast Greenway (ECG), a 3,000 mile network of small roads and dedicated trails running from Maine to Florida. Be sure to let me know if you're ever passing through - I'm on Warm Showers and would love to host you if I'm in town.

Cycling through the local neighborhood
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The main barn of the NC State Small Ruminant Center
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One of the small ruminants enjoying the spring sunshine
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Umstead State Park
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Skirting Umstead State Park on Reedy Creek Trail
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Passing the Equine Learning Center I spotted some tiny newborn foals and their mums sunning on a distant hillside
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One of the many sculptures at the North Carolina Art Museum Park
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On the Reedy Creek Trail/East Coast Greenway through the NC Art Museum Park
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On exiting the Art Museum Park, the ECG crosses I-440 on a dedicated bridge and continues southeast through Raleigh. I opted to turn north onto House Creek Trail and headed to Shelley Lake along a series of greenways. It was my first ride on the recently completed Crabtree Creek Greenway, which had been under repair for several years due to severe flood damage by Hurricane Matthew and subsequent storms. The extensive history of flooding along the creek is colorfully depicted on the underpass walls and in trailside poles showing peak floodwater height during the various storms/hurricanes. I soon reached Shelley Lake, which was alive with waterfowl – terns, mallards, Canadian Geese, cormorants and the occasional heron – all seeming to enjoy a lazy spring afternoon.

I completed the Shelley Lake circuit and backtracked along the various trails to the Art Museum Park. The day was warming and there was more activity along the trails - an occasional cyclist but mostly walkers and their dogs. The Art Museum Park lawn and trails were sprinkled with folks enjoying the day and the various outdoor sculptures. Even the newborn foals were up and about when I passed the Equine Center along the Reedy Creek Trail.

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On the bike/pedestrian bridge overlooking a major road construction project on I-440.
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On House Creek Trail
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The history of significant flooding along Crabtree Creek is depicted on an underpass wall.
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Trailside poles depict the highwater mark of various floods.
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Decorated concrete vents along the Lead Mine Greenway
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Shelley Lake
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Wading in Shelley Lake
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At Shelley Lake
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The NC Museum of Art Park
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Newborn foals are one of my favorite signs of spring
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On the final stretch home, I deviated from my out-route and instead returned on the ECG through Umstead State Park and Black Creek Greenway. The ~5 mile unpaved section through Umstead traverses forested land surrounding the Park and the RDU airport on a wide road prohibited to vehicular traffic. It is a wonderful stretch, though the road surface can be variable and depends in part on how recently new gravel was applied. Today, it was mostly hard packed and grading crews were out in anticipation of heavy summer traffic. There are several smaller arteries off the main multi-use trail for single-track enthusiasts, but today I took the direct route to Lake Crabtree and the eastern terminus of paved Black Creek Trail. After a few miles on Black Creek, I came to  Northwoods Trail, my exit for home.

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Entering Umstead State Park from Reedy Creek Trail
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In Umstead State Park
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The trail through Umstead State Park ends at Lake Crabtree, where I picked up the paved Black Creek trail
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Another pair of young and mum - these two sunning on Lake Crabtree
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On Black Creek Greenway
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I said goodbye to the ECG and Black Creek Greenway and headed home on the Northwoods Greenway
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It had been a splendid day of riding. It was the first time I’ve taken my camera and the time to “tour” while riding locally. I realized that while there are a lot of travel preparations/appointments yet to come, I need to get in more miles on the bike. My calendar gets freed up later this week – here’s hoping the weather cooperates.

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Jordan Lake, Mar 4

Other than a few paperwork chores, the day was free of commitments. Mostly sunny with temps in the mid-high fifties, it was a day destined for a bike ride. Vivien George was packed away so I pumped up the tires on my road bike, a newish addition to the family who hasn’t quite found a suitable name. I planned a more ambitious ride for today, out to Jordan Lake in Chatham County. It would be a mix of dedicated trails and what I hoped would be low-traffic roads.

I headed out from home at just past 11:30, once the temperatures had crept into the low 50’s. A short ride through downtown Cary took me to Northwoods Greenway and I was soon back on Black Creek Trail. Today I headed in the opposite direction than on Monday, riding west toward Bond Park where the Black Creek Greenway meets the White Oak Greenway. Coursing through woods on paved trails and along raised boardwalks, White Oak is one of the most popular of the local Greenways. The trail ends at the 22-mile long American Tobacco Trail (ATT), the only bona fide Rail-Trail in North Carolina. The city of Durham is located at the northern terminus of the ATT,  but today I turned east after only two miles, heading for Jordan Lake on county roads.

Vivien George settling into her temporary digs
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Heading up Northwoods Trail
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Today's ride heads west to Bond Park, the American Tobacco Trail, and beyond
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Bond Park Boathouse
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Fishing, biking and scavenging at Bond Park Lake
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Just beyond the boathouse, Black Creek Greenway ends and White Oak Greenway begins - both part of the East Coast Greenway as it traverses through Raleigh
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The trail passes by a number of neighborhoods built along White Oak Creek. This house celebrates each and every holiday - today reminding me that Saint Patrick's Day is coming up
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Along White Oak Greenway
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Twisting, elevated boardwalks are one of my favorite features of the White Oak Greenway
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Heading north on the American Tobacco Trail
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As I'd hoped, traffic on the county road was relatively low and respectful. And as an added bonus, I soon encountered a road paving project where single lane traffic was controlled in each direction. I managed to get in behind the last car in line and enjoyed a traffic-free two mile stretch along winding Carolina roads. Traffic did pick up once I turned south on Farrington Road, with a near steady stream of cars and trucks. Just before crossing over an arm of Jordan Lake, I turned off into a small lakeside area with a dock and fishing pier. It was a wonderful place for lunch and a short rest. Back on the bike, I crossed the lake on the busy Farrington Road but soon turned onto a series of delightful small roads where I spotted more deer than cars. Once back in Wake County, traffic and new home construction increased until I intersected with the ATT near its southern end. In a short time, I was on the White Oak Greenway and heading home.

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I was happy to encounter low traffic on this winding county road
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Cars waiting at the traffic control point - I snuck in behind this line and enjoyed two miles of car-free cycling.
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Old sheds in the North Carolina woods
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Belted cows were one of the day's roadside attractions
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Kathleen JonesBelted Galloways are a fave of mine. These seem to have slightly different markings than Belties. Are you a large ruminant expert?
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4 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Kathleen JonesHello Kathleen - yes, the markings on the belt seem to be a little splotchy so they are unlikely pure Belted Galloways. I am not an expert on large ruminants, nor a vet, but worked in Vet Schools and Animal Science Departments throughout my career. I do have a passing familiarity with most domestic animal species, though not all the breeds.
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4 months ago
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Lunch spot at Jordan Lake
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A delightful NC country road
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Early signs of spring in North Carolina
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Back on the American Tobacco Trail
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Elevated boardwalk on the White Oak Greenway
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On the White Oak Greenway
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Just two miles from home, I met a cyclist looking intently at a trailside map. Asking if I could help, I learned that he and some friends and family were trying to get to downtown Cary. Hailing from Detroit, they were here for a wedding and had rented bikes for the afternoon but had gotten lost among the network of the Cary Greenways. I happily volunteered to lead the group back to Cary, where we all exchanged high fives and big smiles. It was a great reminder of the good will and cheer encountered while cycle touring – something I’m eagerly anticipating in the months to come.

Detroit family returned from their afternoon exploring Cary by bike
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Rachael AndersonThat’s great you led them to their destination!
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5 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rachael AndersonIt was great fun - and I met the group just as a trail walker was directing them down the busy road into town! Always trust the cyclist.
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5 months ago
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Scott AndersonLooks like there’s some fine riding in your neighborhood. We’ve never biked anywhere near here but should give it a try some spring or fall.
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5 months ago
Rachael AndersonHard to believe you’re leaving so soon. Looks like you got in a great couple of rides!
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5 months ago
Tricia GrahamIt is going to be great to be able to follow yourEuropean cycling adventures again Good luck and safe travels
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5 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Scott AndersonAgree on both counts
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5 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Tricia GrahamThanks Tricia!
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5 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rachael AndersonI’ll be just a few days ahead of you and Scott on our European adventure. So glad you’re feeling better. Looking forward to Burgundy!
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5 months ago
Rachael AndersonTo Susan CarpenterMe, too!
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5 months ago
Suzanne GibsonTo Susan CarpenterMe too!
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5 months ago
Suzanne GibsonTo Rachael AndersonMe,too!
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5 months ago
Bob DistelbergAll the names you mention bring back so many memories from when we lived in north Raleigh 20 years ago, just northeast of Umstead. And I biked the length of the ATT just last year while visiting my daughter and son in law. It’s a great rail trail.
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4 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Bob DistelbergThe ATT is a delight and I think rivals the Neuse River Trail as the best in the area. Let me know when you're ever again in the Triangle Area - it would be great to meet you and perhaps go for a ride. I probably won't be back until later in the fall, but one never knows in this crazy world.
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4 months ago
Bob DistelbergTo Susan CarpenterIt would not surprise me if we ended up down there this fall for another visit. If so, we should definitely meet up for a ride. In the meantime, take care of that ankle. Looking forward to following your travels.
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4 months ago