Category Archives: Blackstone River Bike Path

Stay-cation Sentury*

Earlier this month, I made this declaration on Twitter:

I did this as “re-tweet bait” that is, I hoped that others would agree with my sentiment and retweet my statement throughout the world, thus securing my twitter victory, or twit-ctory. (I haven’t quite figured out twitter – but it is some sort of competition, right?) However, it was only retweeted by one @MoneyOvaBisquik – aaannnd, I’m not sure what that was all about. I’ll have to secure my twit-ctory by other means.

Although it was retweet bait, I certainly agree with the statement whole-heartedly. Cool October weather is perfect for cycling. With that in mind, I scheduled a few days off to enjoy the crisp air. Little did I know that we would have snow storms on during my vacation. I was able to get in a little bit of cycling here and there, however. On Wednesday of last week, I took a leisurely ride up the Blackstone Valley Bike Path. Where I took the obligatory pictures of the pretty little bridge:

and the fall folliage:

The Blackstone Valley Bike Path is my favorite of Rhode Island’s three major bike paths. It rolls gently alongside the river, crossing it multiple times giving the rider views of the valley and there’s hardly any road crossings.

On Thursday, it rained and in some parts of the state, it snowed. But Friday, it was sunny and beautiful, so I was out on the bike again.

This time, I went to the end of the Washington Secondary Bike Path, and then headed out on the roads around the Scituate Reservoir.

I ended up riding just over 50 miles, which is my longest ride since my accident in March, and the longest ride on my road bike (but not my longest ride ever – I performed that on my trusty hybrid). I was pleasantly tired and sore at the end of my ride, and the next day I was only a little bit sore. It was a perfect day for a cool weather ride. Cool enough that I could wear cold-weather cycling clothing, but not so cold that my nose was constantly running. Here’s an approximation of part of my route:

That’s not the full route, I had to extend my ride a little bit at the end in order to reach the arbitrary goal of 50 miles.

I took this picture when I was far out in the hills so I would have a record of there being snow on the ground in October:

Little did I know that we would have a couple of inches of snow in Providence just two days later!

Now the sun is shining, so I’m going to head out on my bike to enjoy my last day of stay-cation.

*okay, so it was a half-century. I did get to ride well over 100 miles during my brief staycation, so that has to count for something, right?

Bienvenue à Woonsocket

As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s nice to have a destination at the end of one’s bike ride. Of the three big bike paths spreading out from Providence, the East Bay Bike Path has the best end-point attractions with its variety of restaurants within a few blocks of the end of the path in Bristol. The Washington Secondary ends rather unceremoniously with the pavement just running out, however, one can always stop at Trader Joe’s on the way home to pick up a few things. As far as scenery goes, The Blackstone Valley Bike Path is my favorite, so although it was a little cool this Veteran’s Day, I decided to take advantage of the day off and enjoy a ride to Woonsocket. It winds along the Blackstone River and the old canal, with no real hills and almost no road crossings. However, it ends at a parking lot and what I call the state’s most useless bike rack:

I took a break here on my ride and found that the rack is actually too small for 700c wheels to properly fit. It doesn’t really matter since there is no reason for anyone to use this rack – it’s at a parking lot. I’ve complained about this rack before, sorry.

Moving on.

I’m a bit map-obsessed: I can stare at google maps for hours, just panning around at the different roads – I think it has something to do with my desire to travel. I’d always noticed that along with the Blackstone Path, Woonsocket apparently has another bike path running through it.

The dark-green road is the Blackstone path coming up from the southeast, but I’d always wondered about the two dark green paths that start just north of the Massachusetts border. First, I would have to get through the town.

Like many former mill towns in New England, Woonsocket has seen better days. Nevertheless, it still has an active main street (with a few empty store fronts), and some great buildings including the train station, once an important stop on the Providence – Worcester Railroad:

Of course, the people train doesn’t stop in Woonsocket anymore, instead  Woonsocketers wait for the RIPTA bus while huddled beneath a nearby railroad bridge. Sometimes I think that bus travel is designed to be as demeaning as possible. Here’s High Street:

It’s hard to see in the distance there, but the building at the end of the street has “Bienvenu à Woonsocket” on the side (is the last ‘e’ unnecessary? I’ll let the French speakers in the audience let me know.) You can see a better picture of the sign at this page on Wikipedia. Woonsocket once claimed to be “the most French city in the US.” The population was 60% French Canadian in 1900, with about 40% claiming French Canadian heritage today.

I had an energy bar with me, but sometimes it’s nice to stop at a local coffee shop for a snack. Yelp coverage is pretty sparse, as it often is outside of the gentri-sphere, so my magic futurephone didn’t have any suggestions for me. Instead, I went the olde fashionede way and biked up and down High Street a couple of times before settling on The Cakery. This simple coffeshop/bakery is not nearly as good as the Bee Hive in Bristol, but I was able to enjoy a cup of coffee and a cookie for less than $2.00. It may not be worth a 17 mile bike trip, but it’s worth an extra 2 miles once you are at the end of the path.

Back to our destination, the mysterious bike path on the other side of the border. I do like the “bicycling” feature on Google Maps, but I don’t quite understand why it hasn’t been integrated into my futurephone’s mapping software. This caused me to wander around for a while in search of the mystery path.

Hmm, what’s that little road heading southeast from Rocco Dr? Did I miss the secret entrance?

Let’s use the CarFreePVD skycam satellite to enhance this image.

hmm. Here’s what that looked like from ground level:

The path marked on the map would theoretically be parallel to the wooden fence there. However, it does not exist, it’s just somebody’s backyard with no indication that there could be a public way. I’m a fairly adventurous cyclist, but I don’t really like riding across somebody’s backyard. However, I will ride down a private road occasionally. And that’s what I did next in order to find this:

A “bike trail” completely unpaved and covered in leaves. Probably not good for a road bike with 700c X 23 tires. As you can see from the map images above, this is the “Southern New England Trunkline Trail” described as a “crushed stone and ballast” trail. It also has a couple of miles of moguls and several unsafe bridges. Traillink.com has a few reviews of the trail by people who drove there to use their mountain bikes.  Off-road cycling just doesn’t appeal to me. It’s definitely not a path that could be used for regular bicycle transportation. Should I alert google maps, or would that just cause it to languish in even more obscurity? It was kind of fun hunting for the trail, but a disappointment to see that I could not ride on it. Oh well, I guess I could always get a cyclocross bike.

So, back to Providence. On my way back through Woonsocket, I took a few more shots:

Is there a name for the genre of painting a picture of a building on the side of another building? I guess it’s kind of a tromper l’oeil, but I wasn’t particularly trompered. Near this building was a lovely (but unnecessary) bike hitching post:

This would have been useful in front of The Cakery, but it was useless here.

A bridge over the Blackstone River...

... with helpful signs

The sign in the median is for the reduntantly named "Hamlet Village"

The George Washington Highway (aka Rt-116) over the Blackstone

Ashton Mill Lofts at sunset

I even saw a couple of deer at the southern end of the bike path (just below the top fence rail).

It was a great way to spend the holiday. Only 45 miles total, but I was sure I would get some more miles in this weekend when I saw that the temperature would be in the 60’s! Unfortunately, I caught a cold and I’ve been sitting inside for the last couple of days while watching cyclists in t-shirts ride up and down Hope Street. Probably the last 60 degree day of the season… grrrr…..

Destinations make the trip worth while

There are three major bike paths that lead out from Providence. The Blackstone Valley Bike Path, the Washington Secondary Bike Path (which, in true New England fashion, goes by different names depending on which town you are in), and the East Bay Bike Path. The EBBP is by far the most popular. It’s almost completely flat, it has nice views of Narragansett Bay, and it runs through some of the more affluent parts of the state. Thus it can fill up with casual riders on a nice weekend day. It’s not my favorite of the three paths, but it does have one great perk that the other paths are missing: a destination.

Here’s the end of the Washington Secondary:

The pavement just sort of ends, and gravel continues. It doesn’t really inspire a cyclist to reach for the end of the path. When you reach this point, you just turn around an go home (unless you feel like going off-road, which doesn’t really interest me).

And here is the view that awaits you at the end of the Blackstone River Bike Path:

It’s the world’s most useless bike rack! It’s at the end of a bike trail next to a parking lot here. There is nothing to walk to, nothing to do. I can’t think of a single reason to lock your bike to this rack. Not exactly inspiring.

Ah, but what awaits the patient cyclist at the end of the East Bay Bike Path?

photo credit: thebeehivecafe.com

The charming little city of Bristol, and my favorite Bristolian restaurant, The Beehive Cafe.

And inside….

photo credit: thebeehivecafe.com

It’s an almost perfect way to spend a lazy weekend day. A nice ride down the coast, followed by a delicious lunch. (I recommend the breakfast sandwich on a Portuguese roll.)

There’s just one problem with this cafe. Here’s the best bike parking:

Locking up to a tree. It’s so undignified. Just look at how the bikes are just falling into each other. Meanwhile, what did I find right next to the restaurant?

Ample horse parking, a necessity for the modern Rhode Island restaurant.

Blog-iversary

Perhaps not quite as note-worthy as my recent car-free-niversary, today is my blog-iversary. It was one year ago today that I first hit the big blue “publish” button over there on the right.  You’re welcome. Please, please sit down, there’s no need for a standing ovation.

I celebrated the blog-iversary by taking a leisurely ride with Spouse and some friends. I used to take the rather busy Broad Street through Central Falls in order to get to the start of the path, but I now take the suggested bike route down Pleasant St., Broadway and High Street. There is far less traffic on this route and although I still believe in the right to ride down (almost) any street or road in the country, sometimes it’s better to take an easier route. Plus, we got to enjoy this scenic view of a Central Falls landmark, the Donald Wyatt Detention Facility.

I didn't want to stop to take a picture - thus the space warp effect. The facility was eerily quiet from the outside.

Here we are enjoying the path, Spouse on the left and fellow-blogger Matt (from Bikes Can Work) on the right.

First of all, Spouse is riding her new road bike…. more on that in a later post. Matt, of course is riding the Bakfiets, with two toddlers in the front. We kept it at a casual pace, approx 11-12 MPH. Still, we were passing many of the very casual riders who fill up the bike paths on a weekend or holiday. We took turns drafting behind Matt and the Bakfiets. Spouse remarked that it was like a sports car drafting behind a Semi. Before scrolling down, beware that these next two photographs have some dangerously adorable toddlers next to an awesome bike.

Pretty cute, right? Well check this out:

you were warned

Argh! My eyes are melting from the adorableness!

Later in the day, we met some other friends at McCoy stadium in nearby Pawtucket to enjoy some minor-league baseball. My friends drove (they had one more toddler than their bikes could handle), but I biked. My hybrid city bike is in the shop getting a new wheel, and I didn’t really want to ride the Raleigh for this distance. Luckily, Spouse lent me her old Cannondale MTB, which although it is her “rain” bike, it still gets the job done. We left at the same time, but I got to the stadium about 10 minutes earlier.  Here’s the gate:

McCoy Stadium Bike Parking

And a close-up:

It’s my least favorite type of bike rack, and it’s installed too close to the wall, but I don’t think I’ll bother complaining to the stadium since I was the only person who used it (out of a few thousand fans). Wouldn’t it be great if dozens of people biked to the game? If you are coming from the East Side, it actually takes less time to bike than it does to drive, park 5 blocks away and then walk back to the stadium. And as you can see, the parking facilities aren’t great, but they are right next to the gate. Even the players’ parking spots aren’t as close as this.

At this one year anniversary, a better blogger than I would have all sorts of reflections on the theme of their blog. All I have are some stats that wordpress can give me: 3,300 views of 76 posts and 218 comments. Although it counts my own links to other posts in this blog as a “comment” which doesn’t really seem fair, but hey, I don’t make the rules, I just exploit them for interesting sounding statistics.

As those of you who write your own blogs no doubt know, a blog’s comment section can be a magnet for spam.  I guess those of you with email addresses may be familiar with this phenomenon as well. But it’s different with spam comments. WordPress tells me that I have a spam comment, and I could just assume that it’s correct, but for some reason, early on the filter gave a false spam signal quite a few legitimate comments as spam.  Of course, as a vain blogger, I want to believe that people are leaving comments on my blog. So I read the spam posts, and a couple of times I’ve even been duped into temporarily approving them, only to find out that their links go to miracle weight-loss drugs. All of this spam discussion is a long-winded way of me getting to my favorite spam comment that I’ve received many times:

“do u hav a twiter?”

followed by a link to some \/|@6R0. Well, I’m happy to say that I can now satisfy all of those spam commenters by saying that yes, I do hav a twiter:

@carfreepvd

I actually started it on the same day that I started this blog, I’ve just let it sit dormant for the last year. I “follow” three accounts right now, but I think it’s been months since I looked at the twitter. But now, I’ll be getting in on the game. So, feel free to follow me if you like, and I can bore the snot out of you with all sorts of cycling and car-free ‘lifestyle’ stuff – 140 characters at a time.