While lying in bed the other night, I tossed and turned faced with a tough choice; will tomorrow be a leg day or upper body day? Poor ole me right? I was finally able to fall asleep in the warmth and coziness of gratitude for having that choice.

Waking up the next morning I stared at the ceiling with a vision of a kayak over one shoulder and a bicycle on the other. I chose leg day and jumped out of bed to prep for my ride. The weather looked good; sunny with highs in the low 80’s and light winds. I am not a fan of riding any streets with distracted drivers these days, so I choose the Northern Central Railroad Trail for my outdoor gym. The trail, originally built in 1832, ceased operation in 1972 and was resurrected as a rail-trail in 1984. I was riding solo that day so other than sucking up some fresh air and sunshine while getting a bit of exercise, I had no real goals in mind. This wasn’t my first ride on the trail, but it had been a few years since my tires had crunched over this stone dust lane to relaxation. Wrestling my bike from the bed of the truck, I caught sight of the bright blue cloudless sky and lush green trees. I smiled with anticipation for the escape ahead of me. I was starting at the two-mile mark of the trail which stretched another 18 miles north to the Pennsylvania line and then for additional 20 miles ending in York, Pennsylvania. Heading north I toyed with the idea of pedaling the entire 80-mile round trip one day.

The first few miles ticked by in a flash. Reuniting myself with the old scenic rail bed made me totally unaware of any physical exertion. One of my favorite things about this trail was how it ran parallel to different branches and creeks off the Gunpowder River. My senses enjoyed a true feast with the sight of the calm pools and gurgling rapids of the river and the earthy smells of the mature sunlit forest. Biking through the woods with a creek by your side is hard to beat. My next journey would be on the river in a kayak with the woods at my sides.  Scanning ahead I spotted a nice spot for a break in a grassy area under some trees. Leaning my bike against an ancient oak tree I considered napping in the lush, green grass. Sitting on the ground with my back against the tree I took in my surroundings. If I were a painter, I would have set up an easel right here. The vivid greens of the leaves on the trees and bushes mixed with the browns and blacks of tree trunks that highlighted here and there with a spotlight of the sun’s rays were magical. Throw in a symphony of birds and breezes and nature was putting on quite a show.  Looking around I suddenly realized that I never been this far north on the trail. Walking around to give my butt a break I found a trail marker that showed me I was still in Maryland, but I had ridden 12 miles already! My previous longest ride was a 16-mile round trip. Today was a guaranteed 24 miles unless I wimped out and called a friend. No way man. Too nice of a day. Realizing the pain that lie ahead I took an extended break and walked around a bit. Another great thing about this trail was the many historical references and sites one could find along the way. Coincidentally, I had decided to take a break near an old stone bridge built in the 1800s. The local residents had posted a sign about celebrating its birthday soon.

Back in the saddle and heading south, I contemplated the healing powers of nature. Not once had I thought about a bill, my job, or politics. My mind and body were at peace. A simple yet elusive pleasure these days. Thanks to my inability to find an adequate seat and padded bike short combination, the 12-mile return trip took twice as long. A small price to pay for the extra time outside. My trip back was also quite eventful as I narrowly missed colliding with an equally startled deer, and I enjoyed a good 20-minute break watching an older gentleman fly-fishing in the river. Not sure who’s smile was bigger as he netted a keeper from the end of a taut line. I shared the trail with many people that day, but it never felt crowded. Everyone seemed to be as grateful as I was to be there. The walkers, runners, bikers, and rowdies carrying inner tubes and coolers all passed with a smile and a cheerful hello.

At the parking lot, I eased my sore behind into the drivers’ seat. The fact that I nearly doubled my previous longest ride paled in comparison to the sights and sounds I had experienced. Although I did pause to take a few pictures, this entire trip, along with many others, would be burned on my brain to revisit anytime, anywhere for a long time to come.


I remember like it was yesterday riding past this place with my father last summer. Instantly drawn to the calming peacefulness the sight of it brought to me, I searched for street names and landmarks to remember. How is it possible that there was no one there? This tiny little community park just outside the city limits of a popular eastern shore town in Maryland was my definition of a kayakers’ dream. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of a busy ocean-bound highway I had unknowingly driven past this hidden gem a hundred times. It was a picturesque discovery and as we drove by,  my mind slowed everything down as they do on car commercials when the stylish roadster snakes through town. I recall the warm sun filtering through the trees and the sweet aroma of brackish water mixed with honeysuckle tickling my nose. The gentle slope of the ramp fading into the brown water longed for a vessel to launch or collect. The loan maroon pier reaching out into the creek and dropping down to mere inches from the waters’ surface was perfect for a kayak. The empty (EMPTY!) stone and grass-covered parking lot with a few park benches scattered about broadened the smile on my face. A scene that took possibly 3 seconds to drive past was now slowed down to a dozen or so slides burned on my brain. The moment I returned home I jumped on Google Earth and planned my escape.

Pushing away from the end of that pier almost a year later, my daydream had finally become reality. The Tuckahoe creek lay before me and I briefly wondered if I should go upstream or downstream. Talk about a win-win situation! I paused for a moment to glance back at my lonely truck in the little parking area and smiled; still amazed that I was the only one here. I chose upstream and steered my favorite mode of transportation in the direction of the many twists and turns I had seen on the bird’s eye view of the creek. My views from the surface did not disappoint. Passing under an old railroad bridge, two water snakes slid off a splintered timber cross member and slithered across the water to the opposite bank. A neat sighting but glad they didn’t decide to join me! This part of the creek had many old blown over trees reaching out over the brackish water and under the surface. This offered a perfect spot for the turtles to catch some rays. Many I encountered had washed out gray shells from hanging in the sun all morning. The shells turned back to a more natural black as they dropped from a log into the water. Many surfaced a few feet away to check on my progress up the creek. As the creek grew narrow and the limbs too numerous to navigate, I ducked into a secluded pool and turned around to paddle downstream. A great blue heron and a crane lifted off from a nearby tangle of limbs and squawked in annoyance as I retraced my path through the limbs and logs.

Crossing back under the bridge and past the ramp, a 90-degree bend to the right in the creek revealed a large carpet of green lily pads to my left. I angled over to the edge of the carpet looking for fish. Plenty of minnows darted in and out of the jungle of pads but the big fish hid their escape in swirls of clouded water when I got too close. Around the next bend, the creek widened a bit and I was treated to a multicolored landscape. The bright blue sky with a few wispy white clouds blended into trees with vivid green leaves that reached down to meet the equally luminous green lily pads lying in wait to catch them. My intense red kayak piercing this scene made for some inspiring photographs. It was one of those days where the only plan was to just go around one more bend then head back. Four miles later my growling stomach made me turn back. Forgot some snacks!

On my return trip, I paralleled the opposite bank to explore a few old duck blinds I had noticed earlier. Drifting past I could imagine the hunters in there with a black retriever, watching the sky and cutting up on each other while waiting to ambush a few ducks or geese. The screech of an osprey diverted my attention skyward just in time to see a bald eagle lift off powerfully from a nearby tree. His white tail feathers, glossy black body, white head, and sharp yellow beak glistened as he soared up and around the bend. Seeing eagles always gave me a thrill and chill and I paddled swiftly around that next bend to keep him in sight just a few seconds longer. Paddling towards me from the direction the eagle departed was an older couple in kayaks who were excitedly sharing my joy in viewing our majestic national bird. As they drifted by we chatted briefly about what we had experienced so far this beautiful day and agreed it doesn’t get much better. The ramp and pier reappeared around the next bend and my truck was still the only vehicle there. This must be the best keep secret in Maryland I thought. But thankfully, I’m beginning to discover many sites like this. My home state has too many for all of them to be crowded. A warm feeling of satisfaction and gratefulness soon replaced my sadness of reaching the end of the days’ excursion. Loaded up and pulling out of the park and back toward the concrete jungle, another truck with a kayak in the back pulled in. We smiled knowingly at each other and gave a thumbs up. Enjoy my friend. It doesn’t get much better.


Well, I’ve had enough. Losing my breath while bending over to tie my boots was the last straw. Roll upon roll cut off my air supply as I reached for the laces and the struggle disgusted and scared me a bit! Diets are only a temporary fix and it was time to practice what I preached when I was busting on all those folks I knew who were trying the latest fad diet; eat right and exercise is the only solution. Probably could cut back on the adult beverages as well. So that’s it. No more excuses, no more last hurrahs. I stumbled on a great deal for a new pair of running shoes last week foreshadowing my current declaration. Tomorrow morning, I Run!

Not that I hated exercise (I love to work out with free weights and bicycle) I just never really liked the idea of running or jogging 5k’s or even a .5K! Little aerobic exercise and poor eating habits had taken its toll. My alarm was set for 5 AM but my eyes popped open at 4:30. I laid there for a few minutes contemplating what I was about to do. For final motivation, I grabbed my belly with both hands overflowing and rolled out of bed. I quietly changed into my running attire and stepped outside onto the front porch. I smiled as the cool, quiet September morning greeted my senses. I could smell the grass I cut the afternoon before mixing in with the earthy rich smell of leaves starting to turn colors and die on the trees. I loved this time of day. Reminded me of sitting in my tree stand waiting for first light. I had thought about this moment many times over the last few years and it was starting off better than I had imagined. My plan was to start this process slowly with intervals of walking and running during the first week. The first quarter mile was the toughest. So bad that I envisioned myself wearing a sports bra to quiet my bouncing pectoral muscles! Gradually, by the end of the first mile, my muscles tightened a bit and the jiggling became bearable. During one of my walking intervals, I even briefly forgot that I live inside the city limits. Pausing for a moment where one of the streetlights had flamed out I was able to look up and see a nice patch of stars filtering through the treetops. I had our little urban neighborhood all to myself for the moment and I was glad it was still dark enough to hide the sweaty mess I had become. All things considered, I was tolerating this running thing better than I hoped. I was probably still a long way from experiencing that Runner’s High, but I felt a little buzz as I turned down my street and spotted my house less than a quarter mile away. Time to finish strong. Keeping my eyes glued to the finish line of our house I launched out of my last walking interval into a brief sprint and then into a more manageable trot. Arriving back home I put my hands on my head and plodded up and down the sidewalk out front until my breathing returned to normal from the 3 miles of abuse. By the looks of my clothes, any neighbor waking up and peeking outside may have thought it was raining when they saw me. I was pleasantly surprised by how good I felt as my initial dread turned to hope. I would absolutely try and stick with this routine and shave a minute or two off my time tomorrow. I often say it, but I had just experienced more evidence that the answers to some of life biggest problems can be discovered with a little time outdoors to clear your mind and soul.