After being off the bike for almost two weeks, Tom and I took advantage of a beautiful (and HOT) day to ride the Chief Ladiga Trail. The Chief Ladiga Trail goes from Anniston AL to the Georgia border, where it becomes the Silver Comet Trail and continues almost to Atlanta. The two trails combined are a total of 95 miles. We rode the “last” 18 miles to the “end” of the trail. The “beginning” of the trail would be the Alabama state line.
The Chief Ladiga Trail is a paved, asphalt rail-trail on the bed of the former Seaboard/CSX Railroad. With the Silver Comet Trail, it is the longest continuous paved rail-trail in the United States. The first section to be completed was the nine miles through Piedmont in 1990. The last section to be completed, in 2007, was the nine miles through Cleburne County to the state line. Although the trail is not wide, the asphalt is smooth and well-cared for – something that is easier in Alabama than it is in Ohio or Michigan. The trail goes by farms, villages, and small cities. But instead of the usual corn fields, we were treated to the sight of cotton fields with the cotton ready to be harvested. Some of the trail is shaded and runs along the banks of a creek – that was the cool section of the trail.
We began the trail just north of Anniston, the largest city on the Alabama side of the trail. Anniston has a population of 22,000 and is the county seat of Calhoun County. The trailhead was well marked and easy to find – in Dr. Mike Tucker and Chief Ladiga Trail Park! The trail has a gradual uphill from Anniston to the Georgia border. We passed through the village of Weaver, which had wonderful overhead arches with “Welcome to Weaver” on each end of the village. Tom and I love to ride on trails where the people along the trail seem genuinely interested in having bicyclists around.
Jacksonville was the next town along the trail. They had wonderful signs with distances to shopping, restaurants, parks, and places of interest along the trail. Jacksonville also had a restored train depot with restrooms and a water fountain. Jacksonville is a small city with 12,000 residents. The Chief Ladiga trail goes through the heart of the Jacksonville State University campus, and serves as a connector between student housing and other university buildings. There are 8,700 students at the University and Jacksonville certainly reflects the collegiate vibe.
The last town on the part of the Chief Ladiga Trail we rode was Piedmont – at the top of the hill we had been gradually climbing for miles. Piedmont has its city limit sign so far away from the city, that we decided it was a tiny town without anything of interest before we actually got to the town. We were tired, hot, and hungry, and we had wanted to eat lunch in Piedmont. But because we had ridden four miles into the “city limits” with no signs of food, we decided to take a break, eat a Clif bar, and head back to Anniston.
By the time we got back to Anniston we were really hungry, and I get grumpy when I’m hungry, so we stopped at Dad’s Bar-B-Que for what we heard was the best BBQ in Anniston. I guess that isn’t much of a claim – and we didn’t think much of the BBQ – but it nourished us enough that we were able to go grocery shopping before we headed back to the RV.
One other interesting thing about the area – and you might have already thought of this – is NO ICE CREAM PLACES! There was a Dairy Queen and a Sonic, but no regional ice cream stands or stores. Very disappointing after I had ridden so far (did I mention I was hot?). Altogether we rode 36.4 miles in two hours and 22 minutes for an average speed of 15.4 mph. It was 84 degrees in the shade and HOT in the sunshine. We went up 961 feet (and came back down on the way back – Yay!). I burned 1455 calories and didn’t get any ice cream (but we did buy some fudge brownies at the grocery store).
We enjoyed this section of the Chief Ladiga Trail and are planning on riding some more tomorrow if the weather cooperates.