Thoughts on fall bike overnights
I’m part of a Facebook group that’s dedicated to the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath. The group has more than 14,000 members, many of whom are planning and celebrating their trail trips and offering each other support along the way. It’s fun to see how many people are using these trails. Beginning in the spring and well into the fall, not a day goes by without people posting photos of their trips. I consider this level of use and enthusiasm part of what constitutes the “high dream” of trails.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed an uptick in questions regarding business services this time of year. While many businesses remain open year-round, some trail-serving businesses are either getting ready to close for the season or are operating under reduced hours. May I offer three thoughts on traveling trails that traverse rural areas in the “shoulder” or off-season?
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. You can’t assume there are vacancies wherever you plan to rest your head each night. Book in advance if possible. The same goes for food and other provisions – Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays, especially. Know your stretch of trail and what will be open. Also, the clocks change in a couple of weeks, which amounts to fewer daylight hours. On the GAP, the Big Savage Tunnel will close for the winter. So as much fun it can be to travel on a whim, this is the time to embrace trip planning.
2. If you live near a destination trail, there’s no time better than now to become a “trail angel.” If you haven’t heard the term, a trail angel is someone who does kind things to help trail users out. It may be a one-time act (helping someone with a bike repair or keeping your business open a little late for someone who’s just come in off the trail) or a regular commitment to helping. Just know trail users can run up against unexpected challenges as the season is winding down. Your help could really make someone’s day.
3. Travelers, exhibit grace. I recently read an article in AFAR magazine about the “Golden Rules of Being a Good Guest.” One of the tips is to “Give a little grace.” This has been a difficult 18 months for the hospitality industry. Businesses are struggling with staffing and other issues. Of course, we all want to experience superb service and quality experiences, but when we don’t, let’s try to exhibit grace. We are, after all, guests in trail communities and the only kind of guest I want to be is a gracious one.