Hugging the coast: Weeks 4-6, Virginia to Rhode Island

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Lisa and Greenway Ambassador Rob Dexter on the greenway in front of the Connecticut capitol in Hartford’s Bushnell Park

Lisa Watts, communications manager for the East Coast Greenway Alliance, is taking two months to ride the Greenway, south to north, with her friend Deirdre Bird. Lisa is sending occasional reports from the Greenway. She sends this review of the mid-Atlantic states, Connecticut and Rhode Island before heading out to Cape Cod on a complementary route and the last two weeks until the Canadian border in Maine. 

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Lisa on a stretch of the Northern Delaware Greenway headed north for Pennsylvania.

The farther north we ride, the faster the weeks go, it seems. Certainly we cross state and town lines faster than we did in Florida, the Greenway’s longest state. Some days Dee and I stare at each other in amazement: can we really be in Philadelphia? In New York City? In Hartford? 

We have been joined for rides and hosted by some extraordinary Greenway ambassadors, folks on the ground who love their local trail segments, maintain them and lead rides on them, and generally advocate for growing this vision of a 3,000-mile path. We especially have appreciated being led in and out of cities, allowing us to take in the sights without having to check our phones for navigation. 

Meet a few of the people who have guided, informed, fed, housed and/or amused us over these last few weeks.

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Daniel Paschall is a Greenway staff member, not volunteer, but he and his girlfriend, Korin, went over and above as hosts and guides, giving us their bedroom in their small Philly apartment and more. Daniel headed out with us early the next morning and led us on a tour of the future northern Philly route — where the Greenway will go once a few more gaps are filled along the Delaware River Trail. We had a beautiful ride all the way to Trenton, NJ, where Daniel set us on the Delaware & Raritan Canal Trail and caught a train back home for meetings. 

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Lisa and Silvia on the Delaware & Raritan Canal path.

Silvia Ascarelli is one of a handful of communications pros who serves on our virtual East Coast Greenway communications advisory committee.  I appreciate her blog posts on bike touring (typically around a food destination, what’s not to love?) and her voice on social media, sharing the Greenway’s posts and other relevant links and information. A member of the Greenway’s Advisory Board, she also volunteers on the New Jersey committee. She gives talks on bike touring and leads fun tours on stretches of the Delaware and Raritan Canal Trail near her home just outside of Princeton, NJ.  Silvia met us one afternoon on the canal trail and led us on a quick tour of the Princeton University campus before hosting us overnight at her home — and throwing a dessert party for us to meet her cyclist and greenway friends. The next day, we twisted her arm and she rode with us on up the amazing canal path for another 30 miles or so. It was a gorgeous day to play hooky in the interest of guiding two Greenway end-to-enders. 

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With so much completed greenway infrastructure around their region, the volunteers on the Greenway’s New York Committee can focus on events more than the other state committees can. Jeff Behm, one of those volunteers, showed up on the Greenway in the Bronx early on a Monday to lead us out of New York City. (Thanks to Silvia for volunteering his services!) We were grateful for his local knowledge, especially because he cut a few hills out of our route. A retired transportation planner, Jeff knows his stuff but also has a sense of humor. In the photo above, I asked him to stand where we could see the I-95 sign, mere feet from the Greenway before it curves away to the Pelham Parkway. The network of greenways leading from Manhattan to Westchester County is phenomenal, by the way. 

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We got word a few days before we reached Connecticut that all 200 miles of the state’s East Coast Greenway route has been signed, just in time for our trip. The smiling man in the photo above is who we all have to thank for that work. Rob Dexter is a strong cyclist and skier with the energy of someone decades younger. He leads rides throughout the state, particularly on the beautiful Farmington Canal Heritage Trail between New Haven and his home in West Hartford. He’s moved monster rocks so bike trailers can get through trail openings, dug trenches so storm runoff wouldn’t coat trails in ice in the winter, and painted road names and Greenway stencils at crossings in the old days. We loved riding and laughing with Rob for a few days, learning about the route’s railway history, touring the remarkable changes in downtown Hartford along the route, and more. 

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Barbara Amodio will tell you that the Hop River Trail in central Connecticut is the best section of the East Coast Greenway.  She might be right. Take a ride to see for yourself — better yet, ask Barbara to lead you on the trail. She’ll tell you fun historical facts, point out unique sights, and let you breathe in its magic under towering trees. Barbara and her friend Beverly Duncan have ridden on all of the Greenway’s Week a Year tours. They have two more weeks to go; they will complete the route and reach Key West in 2019. In the photo above, Barbara is standing beside her bulletin board. You have to love the local pride of Greenway ambassadors. 

Lisa Watts is communications manager for the East Coast Greenway Alliance. Follow along with daily updates on her two-month trip up the Greenway at

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