When listing the Ohio Valley's best assets, discussion often cycles around to its trail system - and the Ohio Valley Trail Partners are looking forward to showing off that asset during the eighth annual Wheeling Heritage Trail Bicycle Tour.
The trail group - a collaboration between the Wheeling Heritage Trail, Brooke Pioneer Trail Association and other groups - host the event each year and have watched it grow from about 75 participants in the first tour in 2007 to this year, when organizers expect about 300 people ages 7 to 92 from several states to make the ride.
Participants can choose one of three courses, depending on endurance and skill level: 10 miles, 30 miles or 62 miles (100 km). All begin at Heritage Port between 8-9 a.m., with the longest course traveling through the hills of West Liberty and Bethany before rejoining the trail at Wellsburg and heading back to Wheeling.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Getting a bike ride in on a sunny day in preparation for the eighth annual Wheeling Heritage Trail Bicycle Tour on May 25 are, from left, Al Ingram, Doug Wayt, Judie Jones, Jenny Ingram and Jay McCamic.
"This tour is a very safe ride," Wayt said. "We have police escorts, we have paramedics on board."
There are five rest stops with food and drink for riders along the course. There will be a lunch for participants following the event, and there will be live music at the waterfront from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. by Jeff Tappe of Smoke Daddy and the Crawfish.
Local attorney Jay McCamic is not only a participant, but also a sponsor of the Trail Tour. He said he enjoys taking advantage of the area's trail system, and he keeps a bicycle in his office.
"I didn't even own a car until I got married. ... I just like the exercise of it," McCamic said.
For Al Ingram, who has participated in all seven previous Trail Tours, cycling is a way to keep in shape, something he admits doesn't get any easier with age. He's been an avid cyclist for more than 40 years, and he and his wife Jenny celebrated his recent retirement from Bayer by biking the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail from Cumberland, Md., to Washington, D.C., over three days.
"Most wives throw their husbands a party for their retirement. I had to bike 210 miles for mine," Ingram said. "But it was fun."
In addition to promoting health and staying active, the event also provides funds for the Ohio Valley Trail Partners to promote the trail system regionally, including in the Pittsburgh area, Morgantown and Charleston, and to help with upkeep of the trail. For example, Wayt said the group recently painted lines inside the Hempfield Tunnel, known as Tunnel Green, to help improve visibility for riders.
"One of our big goals is to connect Wheeling to Washington, D.C., by trail," Wayt said, adding the only remaining breaks in the chain of trails are a seven-mile stretch through Brooke County and a one-mile stretch near Pittsburgh.
Registration will begin at 7 a.m. the day of the tour, but pre-registration information is available at quickservicecycle.com/whttour.