Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bikes build bridges

I was commissioned by Max to write about this bridge.  Five of us walked across the “truss” bridge in Damascus, VA, the place called “trail town USA” since it sits as midpoint town on the Creeper trail, a 34-mile long rails-to-trails path.

I would say bridges are part of the landscape of all cycling pursuits. Sections of roadway or trail are determined and named at the start and end of a bridge (or tunnel).  The bridge means less than the roadway leading to the bridge—don’t they serve as end punctuation or launch points of where, more importantly, the road will take you?  So perhaps the most interesting bridges are those that have been repurposed into something other their original design, like the truss bridge in Damascus.  The truss bridges and majestic trestles (2nd bridge) are super overbuilt by cycling standards.  Therefore, Creeper trail bridges become a destination rather than a thoroughfare, monuments rather than crossings.  They bring us closer to a way of life that pivoted around the railroad 100 years ago, one that newer technologies have taken from us, only to be returned through the simplicity of cycling. (All Creeper bridges pictured here.)

The Creeper trail opened in the mid-1980’s after a hard fight and grants pursuit from locals. When the N&W railroad closed in the 1970’s, residents and local governments sought to have the land transformed into a recreational path.  However, many landowners wanted the land “back” that the railroad had taken from their families at the turn of the century.  North Carolina law had a clause that ordered the neighboring N& W land returned to families after NC railroads closed, but Virginia had no such clause. VA Landowners argued the space would turn into a highway for thieves and vandals, and the influx of motorcyclists and 4 wheelers tearing up the abandoned land backed up their claims.  But trail advocates persisted, grants trickled in, and construction began in mid-1980’s.  Today, it appears the Creeper Trail (and Appalachian Trail) is the economical bedrock of Damascus (pop. 1000).  I noted 5 shuttle services in town dedicated to driving recreational cyclists to either end of the trail, and it's a popular rest stop for cyclists riding cross countryThe trail begins in Abingdon, VA and ends abruptly in NC where all land was promptly returned upon railroad’s closing. 
Photos from the trip. 

Iron Mountain 100k Race Information.  Sweet race!

(Pictured left is Bethany's prized Crosscheck Surly). 

1 comment:

Maxine said...

I felt myself riding gentle path through soft green and brown woods as I read this. Except I was a little nervous about the Lions and Tigers and Bears. Thank you again for sharing a slice of your heaven.