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Expanding the horizon

First a gift in the way of a YouTube video of the trip to Rock Shelter Trail…

Now, I have to tell you that this winter has given me time to pause and think about the direction of my life in coming years.  Something inside me awakened at the realization of 50 years of time on this blue and green marble, and I resolved to take care of some unfinished business, in the order of getting off my lazy butt, stop making excuses for getting into nature which I have loved since childhood but only sporadically indulged in as I raised my family.

Why did I do that?  I ask myself to no good answer.

I started getting back into it several years ago when I rediscovered the joy of riding bikes, and from then to now I’ve also discovered that I’m no speed demon, I prefer scenic paths, and biking isn’t just recreation for me.  All biking is transportation, and seeing that it is for getting me where I want to go, I figure that I’ll be doing my share of bike camping and combination bike-‘n-hikes.  I’ll find a way to strap my Kelty Trekker 65 pack to a B.O.B trailer and hit the greenways that lead to the hiking trails.

All of this is in anticipation of an upcoming Appalachian Trail thru-hike-most likely in 2020.  Gotta get my legs underneath me, and that will happen as opportunity presents itself.

Where does that leave gramtrails.com?  You’ll be seeing a lot more blogging from me, a lot more products for your viewing pleasure.  My main goal here is still to give you some green space to fill your screen space when you have to exercise indoors for whatever reason.  You can live vicariously through my son Aaron and I as we film our adventures.  Or you can use our videos to help pass the time and occupy your brain while exercising in an otherwise boring setting.

Mostly, we want you to be a part of our adventures.  Let us know what you’d like to see.  Tell us if we’re doing it right or wrong.  Ask about the products we’re using.  And get out there yourself as much as you can.  We live on a beautiful planet, and the wonders begin where the street ends!


Green running

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 9.35.31 PMIt was brutally cold today, but somewhat sunny.  I was the only person working in my building today, since it’s the MLK Jr. holiday and my co-workers are mostly military and state employees – they get it off, I don’t.  I went to the gym after I put my time in, and since it is Monday I hopped on the treadmill.

Instead of swiping over to iTunes radio for my normal blood-pumping tune mix, I decided to pull up YouTube and load the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail that I recently uploaded there for free.

Yep, the whole trail for free.

Since I’ve been working out regularly for about a month, and have a pretty good baseline, I wanted to put some Shinrin Yoku to the test.  I don’t have a fancy EEG but my t-mill does have a heart rate monitor.  Want to know my results?

I normally run a 5k, which takes me about half an hour, and then cool down after reaching a max heart rate of around 150.  I walk it off until my HR drops under 110.

Today after loading the video and putting the screen up at eye level so I could focus on it, I was nearly instantly fixated on the trail.  Not only did the time fly by, but I was still energized when I reached the 5k mark, and kept going until I hit 5 miles!  Something I didn’t expect was how quickly my HR dropped under 110 and then under 100 during recovery.  I was still watching the screen as I cooled down.

I trusted the science since I first read about it in 2013, but putting it to the test in the real world, and seeing (and feeling) it working, was something to experience.

Green exercise works, even if you’re getting it from a screen.

So when the weather warms up again and the buds start to burst, I’ll be out there in nature doing my thing instead of pounding a treadmill.  But until then, I’m loading trails…

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C&O Canal Towpath

COTPI had forgotten how beautiful is the C&O Canal Towpath until today, when I went in to stabilize it with MTVS.

Recorded at the peak of this past summer, I left the camera running after recording the entire length of the Western Maryland Rail Trail, since the C&O parallels it, and my one standout thought from that ride was that I need to come back in Autumn with half of the leaves off of the trees to better enjoy the mountain vistas and views of the Potomac. Looking back at the footage today, I’m in awe of the simple beauty.

I didn’t think, originally, that there would be enough stable footage for a full length video. I was wrong. Perhaps I’ll post a short highlight video to my YouTube channel, where I’ve got some free trails up.



New Year’s Revolution

I’m making a new year’s revolution. Yes, I made a New Year’s resolution, too…but that’s a different story. My revolution obviously has to do with wheels, because they go round and round. Ask any kid or dog. It’s not that I’m going to ride more, or ride harder, or anything like that. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to ride more (not necessarily harder) but I’m going to ride my ride. If you know me, you know that I’m active in local bike advocacy. I do charity rides when I can. I have an infatuation with the idea of riding my bike every single day, even if it is for a couple of minutes. Unfaithful infatuation. I’ll get better.

I’m going to ride my ride, and hopefully get more people riding their ride. To me, biking isn’t about spandex, though I wear it a lot. It isn’t about gear, though I own a pretty light Trek road bike. And a hardtail. And a ‘Cross bike. And a ROTS. And a dinky yellow Chinese folding bike. It isn’t about “crushing it” or feats of fifty year old greatness. I’m a has been if I ever was been. But I love bikes. I love riding. I don’t care if I go long, don’t care if I go fast, I just want to go. Some days, there’s nothing better than just cranking along at ten miles per hour drinking in a season in flip flops and tech pants. That’s what I’m going to do this year. When it strikes my fancy to get on my ancient Giant hardtail on some singletrack, I will. When I get the time to bike camp with a CX bike pulling a BOB trailer, I will. When I get the fancy to wrap myself in neon spanks and fly like the wind on my Trek, I will. And if someone asks me what’s so great about biking and how they can get started, I’ll tell them to pull the rusty ten speed out of the garage. I’ll fix it up for ya. And come ride with me, I’ll show you what’s so great. After half an hour, you’ll be so bathed in endorphins you’ll feel like you just started a new life.

I wish everyone such a happy new year. Especially MARTYN ASHTON!

The Legend was going to sell his Colnago, the one he rode in Road Bike Party 2 to pay for his 2016 physical therapy goals. If you missed it, Martyn broke his back in 2013 and can’t turn the cranks anymore, but he and his mates are still hitting the trails with a modded “bucket bike.”

Some of those mates talked him out of selling the bike, suggesting instead that he open a GoFundMe account and allow others the joy of paying it forward and get to take part in a bit of helping out someone who has given so much to cycling over the years. He’s such a positive person! I slipped him a few bucks and you can, too, read this story first and then give!

Martyn wanted to raise 7 thousand pounds (he’s a Brit), and we absolutely blew that out of the water and have slipped him almost 54 grand. How grand that is. Says he wants to use the excess funds to get others with challenges out on bucket bikes and such…you go Martyn.

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A view from the trail

Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see. Believe me!

Oh, the things  you can see from the trail.  There are times when I have to get off the path, unclip, and stand there in awe of beautiful surroundings.  I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, you can ride the same trail, or walk the same street every day and it’s never the same.  Some of the details are different every day.  The foliage.  The people you pass.  The temperature or the weather.  This particular day, there were a lot of sailboats out from the Washington Sailing Marina on the north tip of Daingerfield Island, which isn’t a real island, but nobody cares.  The warmth of the sun on your skin, the smell of the water, the sounds of gulls and ducks and a thousand birds.  If you don’t take the time to get out there, you don’t see these things.  Here’s for getting out there.


BEDPost 24 June 15

What is a BEDPost you ask? BED stands for Bike Every Day. My intent is to post these regularly. I ride every day, and hopefully circumstances will allow me to put up a BEDPost video on the blog for you on a regular basis. These are short, over the handlebar chats about whatever is on my mind. Enjoy!


Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail

Brazenly lifted from Michelle S's Yelp reviews page in return for a link back http://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=t3yePYpHMzQagwOz2zKaqQ

Brazenly lifted from Michelle S’s Yelp reviews page in return for a link back

Great good news for those of you who like a little “off path” bike action.  Gramtrails.com applied for and got permission via a recreational use permit from the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail Association to ride their trail.  At this time, if you don’t have a permit, the trail is closed to you.

But not for those with access to the gramtrails.com video library.  The Dahlgren is the next trail I’m recording, so come back often to check progress.

Have a trail that you want recorded?  Drop me some feedback and I’ll get them on my list.



I took a spill on the bike today while out on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was misting, and the wooden bridges have these yellow signs at either end that say “bridge slippery when wet.” I thought I was being nimble, but let me advise you not to shift your center of gravity off of the top of the bike, or you will become one with the cycling surface. I was just coming off the end of the wet bridge and turned into a curve, and my back wheel was still on wood. Next thing I knew I was looking at trailside plants. I’m okay, I’m okay. Geez, gotta be careful out there. Unfortunately for you I wasn’t recording at the time, so I have nothing to show you.


Pleasant surprise

The Kal-Haven Trail in all of its stone dusty glory

The Kal-Haven Trail in all of its stone dusty glory

Sometimes all it takes to get a person motivated is a pleasant surprise, like finding out that something you thought was gone – never to return, is suddenly back with its arms held open for a hug!  Such is the case with the trail videos I shot last August on Michigan’s Kal-Haven Trail.  I shot it on the middle weekend of a two week Army Master Resilience Trainer course at Fort Custer, and when I got done riding and plugged the micro-SD card in my computer’s card reader, I found to my horror that I’d gotten a lovely audio recording and nothing more.  I was more deflated than a football in New England.

Chalk it up to newbie mistakes.  Check and double check your camera’s settings before you head off down the trail, Jim.  Check.  Got it.

That brings me to May.  I’m almost three weeks into the People for Bikes “National Bike Challenge” and have been dutifully riding every day, mostly along the Mount Vernon Trail in Alexandria, Virginia. Late last week I decided to get out my extensive bag of action cam goodies and get some trail footage since everything has greened up nicely and everyone is out running, walking, and biking. I went through all of the micro-SD cards to see which ones I could use to record, and when I snapped the Kal-Haven one into my new (to me) MacBook Air.  Huh. I gasped.  There, in all of their glory, were the missing video files.  I don’t know where they were hidden, or how they got that way, but they were there, and I squealed like a schoolgirl and did a little dance (kidding). But I was elated.

Mind you, they somehow got recorded in 4×3 instead of cinematic, but at this point, I’m not looking a gift trail in the asphalt.  It’ll be up soon in the library, along with the entire 18 mile length of the Mount Vernon Trail.

Until next time, keep pedaling!


Wrapping up 30 days of biking

Area 12 in full spring swing

Area 12 in full spring swing

On day 29 of my #30daysofbiking pledge, I hit Area 12 again, and I’m glad for the experience.  Spring has finally sprung in central Indiana.  Bright white clouds were adrift across the deep blue sky, the buds were bursting, and the fields were lush with grass and flowers.

This was a lunch break ride, and I was particularly struck by the beauty of the gray and white bark of the sycamore trees along the Big Blue River, front-lit by sunlight and backlit by sky.

As April is wrapping up, and I’m about to be released from my #30daysofbiking pledge, I tell you plainly that I’m not ready to give it up.  So I won’t.  May 1st begins the League of American Bicyclists’ (I’m a card carrying member) National Bike Challenge.  My new pledge is that I will be in the top one percent on September 30th.  I’ll end with my recent Facebook post discussing the last day of my 30 day pledge.

“Through cold, wind, rain, and more wind, I rode my bicycle every day for the past 30 days. I joined 6,973 other cyclists at ‪#‎30daysofbiking‬, taking the pledge to ride every day. I learned a few things from this experience. First, there is no such thing for me as a “biking season” now. I will consider every day that I’m not able to ride as an incomplete day.

Vista:  Mauxferry Road looking south.

Vista: Mauxferry Road looking south.

“Second, all biking is transportation. If you get in your car, does anyone ask you where you’re going? If you were to say, “to the movies” would people throw their hands up and say, “oh, so its a recreational ride”?

“No. Even if I’m riding down a converted rail trail for fun, it is first and foremost transportation. Finally, you see things completely differently from a bike saddle. In a car, you miss 90 percent of everything. On a bike, you really see and experience things. Now…on to the National Bike Challenge!”

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