August 05, 2009
By Elisabeth Grant
In two recent editions of “What We’re Reading” (June 4 and July 30) we’ve linked to articles from the New York Times about cyclists on historic rides: biking the Underground Railroad and the Iron Curtain Trail. With the sunny days of summer upon us, it’s a good time to get out there on your ten-speed and experience history while perched atop two wheels. Check out the following resources for ways to cycle through history*.
National Park Service
A search on the National Park Service’s web site reveals a number of history-related cycling options, in these locations:
- National Mall and Memorial Parks – Free, every Saturday and Sunday, 1-4pm, March 28 through November 29, follow National Park Service rangers on guided tours through the nation’s capital. Explore topics like presidential assassinations, Civil War battles, overlooked landmarks, the history of the Mall, and more.
- Little Rock Central High School Historic Site (PDF)
Use this PDF to bike to and explore key sites related to desegregation at Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Or call the information number on that PDF to look into NPS guided tours.
- Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
Explore the 184.5 miles of the C&O Canal biking trail and learn its history along the way. Find more information about biking the path in this 2009 visitor’s guide PDF.
Adventure Cycling is a nonprofit organization started in 1974. They were mentioned in the New York Times article on the Underground Railroad route that we mentioned above. While their site offers a considerable amount of information, we found two sections on routes to be of particular interest: the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route and the Lewis & Clark Trail. Each section offers information about the historical stops along the way, and cyclists can then opt to buy the complete map set (around $100 for non-members) or a portion of the route (around $15 for non-members).
Historical Trails Cycling
The creators of Historical Trails Cycling explain that they believe “history is more fun when discovered from the seat of a bicycle.” They offer three trips (from 31 to 44 days long) that include camping and meals: the Wilderness Road Bike Trip, the Lewis and Clark Bike Tour, and the Oregon Trail Tour.
Self Guided Tours
One always has the option of finding a bicycling route online and being your own tour guide. Those in the Washington, D.C. area might enjoy the Arlington History Ride (see also the PDF map of the route) which begins at the Arlington Historical Museum, travels through a number of Arlington communities, and concludes with the Abingdon Plantation. Or, check out the Talbot County, Maryland bike map (PDF). Use it to find your way to Civil War grave sites, the “historic boat building town of Oxford,” and more.
If you know of other resources that couple history with cycling, please share them with us in the comments section of this post.
*Please note that the AHA doesn’t vouch for or endorse any of these biking tours.