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The Elkridgean Cyclist - Beating the Heat

One way to beat the heat is to take a swim-and-ride in Columbia. If you don't belong to the Columbia pools, you can still ride the shady pathways there.

It felt so wonderful to get back on my bike on Sunday, after 5 straight days of couch-potato sluggishness. I have no excuse. I have a gym membership and I have equipment in my basement, but I only wanted to be outside. Even so, every evening last week I had a fresh reason why I couldn't ride. On Tuesday I had to go grocery shopping but it was too hot to go by bike. On Wednesday, I felt sick. On Thursday, I guess it was a combination of rain and threat of storms. On Friday, I had big plans for a girls night out. (We went to dinner, and attended The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's rendition of Pride and Prejudice. Despite the prognostications for rain, we stayed dry for the entire outdoor show at the Patapsco Female Institute, which was delightful by the way.) On Saturday, the rain was persistent, but at least it held off after dinner, and my husband and I took a nice two mile walk to the Cider Mill development with our little beagle-mix Buttercup. (She's so cute, by the way, but the couch-potato lifestyle comes naturally to her even though she was raised as an outdoor farm dog.) Sunday, after Mass, lunch and nap (of course), I had my snack and rode my 16 mile loop down Hanover to Race Road, over to Furnace Branch and Main Street Elkridge, into the Patapsco State Park, back up Bonnie Branch, down Ilchester, and home. The sun even came out. It was so nice to have a break in the heat.

I mentioned my gym membership. I belong to the Columbia Association, which includes all the outdoor pools. Belonging to these pools is a boon for the bike-rider in the summer time. Last Monday, my friend Leny and I did a fun "swim and ride." I highly recommend this activity in the summer. Columbia has all those paved trails, and the pools are never far from the trails. Last summer, I did a swim-and-ride that included something like five pools. This summer, many days have been too hot, even, for swim-and-rides, but I have done a couple. Because Leny is not a Columbia Association member, we only went to one pool, so that I didn't have to use a guest pass at each stop. We started at Phelps Luck pool, and rode our bikes about 9 miles around Lake Elkhorn and back. The trails are so shady, for the most part, that we didn't feel the heat all that much. Usually I just ride to the pool from my house, which adds about 8 miles (round trip) but because it was rush hour, and Leny is a novice bike-rider, we wanted to keep to the trails as much as possible. We got back to the pool around 5pm, and normally I would swim a few laps, but we decided just to wallow around in the water and enjoy it. We didn't stay long because it was getting close to dinner time. I don't know if I've made this clear in my blog posts before, but I don't do well with hunger!

When I'm not riding down to the Patapsco River, or to the grocery store, or on a special excursion with my husband, I'm usually riding to Columbia. I find that it is a rather less grueling ride than the river ride, though there are some hills to give a good work-out. I usually ride through Rockburn Park from Landing Road to Montgomery, make my way to Old Montgomery, across Route 108 to Tamar Drive. Then I ride up Tamar to a trail that goes under Tamar Drive at Hayshed Lane. From there I can follow trails to many places. Usually, I loop around Lake Elkhorn, and then follow trails back past Long Reach. But then instead of going back up to Tamar, I go straight over to the Phelps Luck area, getting to Route 108 at Howard High. I go right on 108, turn left at 104, over the traffic circle at Route 100, and then into Montgomery Meadows where I make my way back to Ilchester, and home. Call me crazy for going over Route 100 there, but at least Route 104 has a shoulder! Sometimes instead of riding to Lake Elkhorn, I'll ride to Columbia Mall, or to the MVA, or to Dobbin Center for lunch or dinner. There are many paths to explore in Columbia.

If you want to ride on the Columbia trails, you can purchase a trail map from the Columbia Association headquarters at Lake Front, or you can get one at some of the village centers. I know Long Reach Village Center has them at Stone House where I take ballet class. The map is also on-line, and some portion of it is even in Google Maps. My husband has the map app on his iPhone with the Columbia trail map on it, which is GPS-enabled and shows you where you are. I have Google Maps on my Android phone. The trails can be confusing, but once you get used to orienting yourself to them, with landmarks like tot lots and occasional cross roads, it gets easier. On some of the trails, there are maps posted, and on some of the trails, there are markings painted which tell you which street a side trail leads too. Usually I just want to stay on the widest trail, because that is the one that goes through. I know the one from Phelps Luck to Lake Elkhorn so well that I don't even have to worry about it. I sometimes ride these trails alone, but it is not a smart idea. Everyone I meet is very kind to me, but you do read about incidents on them from time to time, so my advice is, bring a buddy!

Happy Riding!

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Paul R July 31, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I live right off Montgomery Rd and I commute by bike to my job at UMBC most days. I'm sure I've seen you around. My favorite roads to ride on in eastern Howard are Lawyers Hill and Bonnie Branch. You should try riding in neighboring Baltimore County some time. I frequently take River Rd out to Frederick Rd, towards Ellicott City, then ride up Oella Ave. and into Catonsville. There's some nice riding out that way. Catonsville does have its share of traffic, but unlike a lot of eastern Howard, there is a good network of side streets you can take to avoid it. Happy riding to you too!
Elizabeth Janney July 31, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Don't forget to vote in our poll about the best places to bike in greater Elkridge. http://elkridge.patch.com/articles/readers-choice-vote-for-best-place-in-elkridge-to-bike Nobody has voted yet. :( You can also leave your favorite spots in the comments section.
Christine Barton August 05, 2012 at 07:41 PM
My husband and I did a big loop out there this year. We want to get out there again soon! We took River Road up to the Trolley Line trail, through Catonsville, close to UMBC, back through Patapsco.
Christine Barton August 05, 2012 at 07:43 PM
I never saw that poll, Elizabeth, and somehow I missed this comment too! Since I don't do much mountain biking, I can't really vote, but I have heard that the Patapsco trails behind my house (Cascade) are some of the best in Maryland. They are much too advanced for me.

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