The Tale of Trails

By Bill Faith


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Harley-Davidson was the brand of excitement for boomers in years past, but now the more active old-fashioned, two-pedalled bicycle is gaining ground due to an abundance of beautiful and level, off-road trails that are safe and quiet.

Folks who are healthier and living longer want inexpensive, easily available leisure activities that allow for exercise in the fresh air. The recreational cyclist has no ongoing costs or limitations like the golfers' annual dues and reserved tee-off times.

Bicycling is a beneficial form of exercise that improves general health, while being gentle on joints. The newest bikes have multiple gears that permit the rider to choose easy or more strenuous cycling with fat tires that grip the trail surface. Shock absorbers and extra wide, padded seats make the ride smooth.

The lightest and most uncomplicated two-wheeler to ride is the easy-boarding aluminum one. This bike is perfect for the person who can't swing that leg over the bar easily enough. Lift a foot only six inches off the ground and step through. Riders should get the best bike they can afford: a wise investment because it will support them safely for years.

A hitch bar with two arms fixed to the back of the car will safely carry a rack of up to four bikes. It’s very simple to lift the bikes onto the structure secured with special locking mechanisms.

Traillink.com provides the cyclist with quick facts on locations of trails in the U.S., but the larger paths have their own websites. The Rail-Trail Conservancy's directory, aptly named *1000 Great Rail-Trails*, lists locations by state. One can see lengths, endpoints, type of surface (paved, dirt, etc), wheelchair accessibility, and information on how to contact trail supervisors. No fees are charged for these lanes and they're open all day, every day, and managers often put up guideposts identifying historical attractions such as old stations, barge canals, tunnels and the ruins of railroad equipment. Other signs demonstrate various types of trees, wildflowers and birds.

In Canada, the website canadatrails.ca is a wonderful source of valuable information.

The Matsqui Trail, British Columbia's beautiful path running along the Fraser Valley, is flat and easy to traverse. It meanders for 10 km showing off the snow-capped Cascade Mountains and the lush green farms that border the river. Cycling through Matsqui Park, there are plenty of tables for a picnic (but not during spring runoff) and the quaint old historic town of Mission has all the fixins for it. The trailhead is at the south end of Mission Bridge and for those who would rather bus or train their way there, the West Coast Express Commuter has convenient schedules between Mission and Vancouver.

The famous Kettle Valley Railtrail (KVR) between Princeton and Penticton claims to be the most spectacular pathway in B.C., cruising along the Tullameen River with the red ochre cliffs and hoodoos stone pillars alongside. It was voted one of the top 50 best cycling routes in the world by *Bicycling Magazine*. Part of the Trans-Canada Trail System across Canada, the KVR is actually 600 km long, but the best part is east of Princeton, and along the Myra Canyon. It’s difficult to keep pedalling with so much to see from the trestles hanging precariously on the sides of the canyon to the many tunnels and thick forests. The CPR built the railway in 1899 to bring silver and coal to market and then passenger service started soon after. By 1964, the last passenger train had travelled the route but there are a few stations and ruins still standing.

Free parking, good washroom facilities and paved surfaces make Centennial Trail in Washington a wonderful carefree track. This trail follows an old rail right-of-way between Snohomish and Arlington through agricultural land and forests crossing pristine creeks on solidly built bridges. This area is quite serene since there were hardly any other cyclists, only chirping colourful birds in the rural surroundings.

Everyone on the trail should bring a bike-fitted saddlebag full of helpful items. Cold water is important, even when it's not hot outside. A light stainless steel bottle is recommended now for holding water, instead of the old soft plastic ones. Bike tools and an air pump are compulsory. A tool kit with everything in it (Allen keys and small wrenches for adjusting the handlebars and seat, and a small seven-inch-long pump, which weighs five ounces) is all that's required. Finally, a helmet with a visor, ultraviolet-protected sunglasses and sunscreen are needed to block out the harmful rays of the sun whether it's cloudy or sunny.

“Life is like riding a bicycle,” said well-known former Florida Senator Claude Pepper. “It doesn't end until you stop pedalling.”

 

MARCH 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER AND LOWER MAINLAND

 

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