21 June, 2017

History from the saddle

by Scott

When I was in school, I loved history classes. I loved the stories of the past, the tales you got if you went beyond dry text books and delved into the stories of people who lived in that time and experienced the events.

I've been lucky to have seen many historic places from the saddle of my bike- Stonehenge in England, the Gettysburg battlefield just north of us in Pennsylvania, Gold Rush settlements in the interior of British Columbia, and Icelandic settlements that date back to 1000 AD. One of the things that I think is great about travelling by bike through these areas is seeing them at what's termed a "human pace".  All these locations were places created or had events happen there, before the invention of the car. So the landscape and the settlements were altered/used by people who walked for the most part. So when you pass through them at 10-14 miles per hour, you can take in all sorts of smaller details that you would miss if you drove past them.



The DC randonneurs have numerous brevets that take them through the battlefields of the Civil War that abound in the Maryland/Northern Virginia area. I've gotten to ride through the battlefields on quiet, misty mornings and it is quite moving to cycle through and see the monuments and try to understand what happened there.

Our good friend Mike Ross was on a tour in Maryland and came upon this sign.


Mike always sends me these photos to remind me of the local history that is so prevalent here in the east coast.

Where have you traveled by bike that had some history or story to it?

9 comments:

wilsonhubbell said...

I served in Viet Nam during 1967-68. I returned to Vietnam in 1995 and rode my touring bike from Hanoi to Saigon. Because of the bike, I was able to get off the paved roads and get into areas where I had served as a soldier - and thereby meet a former member of the Viet Cong. Surprisingly, he was flattered that someone would travel a great distance alone to meet him in peace rather than war. He gave me a picture of himself and wrote this on the back (as translated): "The inscription on the tombstone wears away in 100 years, but friendship is forever. Your Friend, Trinh" Without the bike this would not have happened...

Unknown said...

Taking the C&O Canal from Georgetown to Cumberland and the GAP rail trail from Cumberland to Pittsburg your covering quite a bit of history. Canals, tunnels, bridges, railroad beds, pre colonial Native American paths (Nemacolin's Trail), military trails (Braddock Road), the National Road. Caves where they retrieved mega fauna, The Braddock Rock in Frostburg...


Dave Adams said...

In 1862 Jeb Stuart led about Confederate 2,000 horsemen in a reconaissance that would eventually go all around the Union army, providing critical intelligence for the "Seven Days" battles that Robert E. Lee would execute to push McClellan away from the Confederate capitol in Richmond, Virginia.

Most of this route can still be ridden. Some roads have reverted to private land; some are now almost unusable with heavy motor vehicle loads. But most of the hundred or so miles is available to a bicyclist.

And on bicycle one certainly does get a MUCH better idea of the endurance of these nineteenth century horsement than one would get in a car!

Anonymous said...

Out West we have lots of 'natural history' to explore... (except for the occasional or even outrageous story of some pioneer or outlaw). Epic rides for some of us are gravel grinders in real mountains with occasional mining ghost towns or old lumber camps -- just gnarly and much less cultured than the East Coast.

Mr. Hubbell's story of Vietnam is wonderful.

Saxlingham said...

Living in the UK on the south coast we have lots of bronze age settlements up in the South Downs Way (as well as the odd bit of Roman). Not to mention more 'modern' castles etc. All easily accessible by bike.

It staggers me how many people just walk / cycle right past them without a care. Thousands and thousands of years of history. How different it must have looked.

Mr. Drew said...

I'm riding the Ohio to Erie Trail this week on my Campeur. My son and I are going from Cleveland to Cincinnati. This route goes entirely across the state of Ohio, and it is almost entirely on dedicated trails you can ride on a road bike.

It is full of history. The first 70 miles follow the historical Ohio to Erie Canal, along the towpath. Very similar to the C&O, except the pavement is a lot smoother. The rest is mostly rail trail. You go through Amish country, and through many scenic small towns.

It's about 350 miles total. We took our bikes on Amtrak to the start.

I'm blogging it at thevcblog.blogspot.com.

Beau said...

My partner and I did the KATY Trail in Missouri a few years ago. We stopped at every plaque along the way. Most of them were about Lewis and Clark's journey through the area. It was a great trip and a lovely way to see the state.

Justine Valinotti said...

I've cycled to many of the chateaux of France, including Amboise (where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last days), Usse (where Charles Perreault wrote "Cinderella" and "Beauty and the Beast") and Vincennes. I also have cycled to Versailles.

In addition, I've cycled the Marne Valley, where several important WWI battles took place, as well as the cathedrals of Chartres, Reims and Vezelay.

Here in the US, I've ridden to Washington's headquarters in Newburgh, NY and along the Delaware and Raritan Canal trail, one of the early corridors of the Industrial Revolution.

I'm one of those people who stops to read plaques.

Unknown said...

Im also one of those who stops to read signs and plaques. Hahaha... We should form a club...