At the end of December, I published a blog entitled New Year’s Resolution: “Bicycling is a Great Way to Get in Shape, Save Money, Help the Environment, and Get Rewarded for it!” In the blog, (see https://ridesolutions.org/2020/12/30/new-years-resolution-bicycling-is-a-great-way-to-get-in-shape-save-money-help-the-environment-and-get-rewarded-for-it/) I referenced a variety of articles lauding the many health benefits of bicycling. In addition to these benefits, I noted that bicycling can save money, wear-and-tear on vehicles, and has virtually no environmental impact. Bicycling is certainly among the most enjoyable workouts one can engage in, and when this workout is incorporated into the commute or other trips, much more time is made available for other activities one may wish to engage in, such as extra family time, etc. Spring-like weather is making its appearance, and as we get ever closer to spring, warmer days are sure to follow. And spring, with its moderately warm temperatures and the re-emergence of delightful plant life, is a great time to get out and take in all that nature has to offer. Therefore, now is a great time to get your bike in working order for the warmer weather. This week’s blog focuses on great destinations to bike to in Patrick County, and some of the best ways to get there!
With the greater distance between population centers and various destinations due to its rural character, one may regard Patrick County as less than ideal for bicycling. However, this rural character is actually one of the County’s greatest cycling assets! Many of Patrick County’s roads are, in general, characterized by low traffic volumes, which makes them very suitable for cycling. Additionally, bucolic scenery and mountain views present themselves at every turn, making cycling in the County even more pleasant.
The interactive map associated with the West Piedmont Regional Bicycle Plan is a great resource to help you plan your ride, whether it’s to work or another destination. As shown on the image below, the green lines depict recommended bicycle routes in the County. If you click on any one of these lines, a menu will appear, which presents valuable information such as the posted speed limit, traffic volume expressed as Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT), and road surface type. This information will help you choose the best route, based on your comfort and abilities as a cyclist. The West Piedmont Regional Bicycle Plan interactive map feature is available at https://wppdc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=abfe3df1b6ec4769aff2253d528fe2e9&extent=-80.3966,36.5503,-79.3420,37.0073.
Town of Stuart
The Town of Stuart serves as not only the county seat of Patrick County, but is also the County’s largest population center, as well as a major employment, shopping, and entertainment center for the County. Stuart is home to Patrick County’s government services, a farmers’ market, the Stuart branch of the Blue Ridge Regional Library, the Patrick County campus of Patrick Henry Community College, dining establishments, and other locations to which residents of the County often travel to for either work, recreation/leisure, dining, or schooling. To travel to Stuart from Patrick Springs, we recommend traveling the following road network: Spring Road/South Mayo Road, New Hope Church Road, Poplar Drive, and Commerce Drive, the latter of which will lead you directly into the Town of Stuart. The total length of this route network is approximately 6.2 miles. The benefit of this route is that the cyclist avoids riding along U.S. Route 58, which can be intimidating for many cyclists due to the relatively high amount of traffic and higher travel speeds associated with the traffic. See the figure below for an illustration of this route. Approaching Stuart from the south, the most direct route is Salem Highway (Route 8). However, traffic on Salem Highway may be intimidating for some cyclists, so if feasible, consider using South Mayo Drive, Wayside Road, or Shingle Shop Road, particularly if approaching town from the south and east. Dobyns Road is recommended when approaching the Town of Stuart from the west.
Rich Creek Corporate Park
Perhaps you live in Stuart or Patrick Springs and are employed at Rich Creek Corporate Park and you’d like to bike to and from work a couple of times a week. From Stuart, simply take Commerce Street/Commerce Drive east to Poplar Drive, and that will lead you directly there; this is a distance of only about 3.7 miles from downtown Stuart. The most direct route to Rich Creek Corporate Park from Patrick Springs involves riding Providence Drive to Animal Clinic Road to U.S. Route 58, which will require riding on Route 58 eastbound for just 0.2 mile, before turning right onto Twin Ford Loop. While a shoulder is present on Route 58 East, there is none present on Route 58 West; therefore, cyclists should ride with caution, though the distance is very short. Please see the figure below for a map of these two routes.
Critz, Reynolds Homestead
Patrick County’s rural Critz community, located east of Patrick Springs, is home to an elementary school; small establishments; and the Reynolds Homestead, the nearly 800-acre historic homestead of R.J. Reynolds. The rural roads converging on the Critz community serve as an excellent place to bicycle due to the rural nature of the roads, characterized by very low traffic volumes – typically just a few hundred vehicles per day on most. If you live in the surrounding area or in the heart of the community itself and you want to commute to work, drop off some mail at the post office, or take in the history or take a class at the Reynolds Homestead, this option would be a great, short biking trip. From the more populous Patrick Springs, Critz is under four miles and a straight run via Dogwood Road. See the figure below, taken from the interactive map feature of the West Piedmont Regional Bicycle Plan, illustrating a series of recommended bicycle routes in the Critz area.
Meadows of Dan
Meadows of Dan, located in the western part of the County, near the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a popular stop for tourists traveling this famed Parkway; the community also caters to the needs of area residents. If you live in or near Meadows of Dan and you’d like to visit a bank, the post office, commute to work at the local elementary school, or purchase items at some of the unique shops along U.S. 58 Business, you can get there by bike! The interactive map of the West Piedmont Regional Bicycle Plan contains several recommended routes in the area. One such route is bucolic Squirrel Spur Road, which links with the Blue Ridge Parkway west of Meadows of Dan. Other possibilities from the south include Dan River Road, Cherry Creek Road, and Free Union Road, all of which are characterized by very low traffic volumes. Approaching Meadows of Dan from the north, Dehart Lane and Willis Road are recommended. See the map below, part of the West Piedmont Regional Bicycle Plan’s interactive map feature.
Fairystone State Park
Fairystone State Park, named after the naturally-occurring cross-shaped stones found in the park, is a regional and state recreational jewel located right in Patrick County. Fairystone is a great place for recreational activities such as hiking, swimming, paddle sports including kayaking and canoeing, fishing, and camping. Recommended routes shown in the interactive map of the West Piedmont Regional Bicycle Plan include Fairystone Park Highway (Route 57), traversing Patrick County from east to west and serving nearby Henry County as well. Microfilm Road, Egg Farm Road, and Pole Bridge Road serve the rural residential communities of northeast Patrick County, and function as an effective road network to access the park. If you reside in the Stones Dairy or Blackberry areas of Henry County, Stones Dairy Road is a recommended route within the regional bike plan as well. See the figure below for an illustration of many of these routes.
If you are commuting or taking other trips by bicycle in Patrick County, or you plan to as the springtime weather approaches, the RIDE Solutions app provides you with a great incentive to do so, with discounts on dining, shopping, and entertainment for every bicycle trip you log! Keep in mind, you cannot log trips that do not include a destination; such a non-qualifying trip would include a leisurely ride for the sake of riding. If you do not yet have the free RIDE Solutions app yet, download it today at www.ridesolutions.org!