Empty Roads, Unless You Count the “Road Closed” Signs

Over the past few weeks here in the MD/DC/VA area we have had heavy rains move through that caused localized flooding. Not bad where we live, but where we may have gotten 2″ just a few miles away may have gotten 6-8″.

That happened earlier in the week but by Saturday there had been a few dry breezy days and I decided to do a favorite local ride, the “Express Train to Chesapeake Beach MD” – a 61 mile loop between the Chesapeake Bay and the Patuxent River. I checked the weather but didn’t check for road closures – as you can see from the photo, that was a mistake.

As I drove to the staring point at the high school in Harwood MD, I noticed detour signs for Sands Road. I would be on Sands Road for 6 of the first 10 miles, so I decided to drive the start and check it out.

Yup – road closed, but was it passable for bikers? I started walking down past the road closed sign and a man with a camera was coming back from doing the same thing. I asked and he said it was passable, other bikers were walking their bikes past the sinkhole and the construction equipment and no work was being done today. He added “I looked down in the sinkhole, there are 6-8 bikes and bikers down in there but none of them were moving, so you don’t need to stop…”

Drove back to the start and got going, about 5 miles in I walked the bike around the Road Closed signs on both ends of the closure (and ignored the faint moaning signs coming from the sink hole) and rode on.

Only to hit another Road Closed sign 8 or 9 miles later on tiny Pindell Road at a sharp downhill to a small creek bridge. Two guys were working on a mini-bike in their yard, supervised by their dog wearing a cone of shame, and they said bikes can get by. The dog tried to get under the fence to sniff me, but the cone of shame got him stuck while we all had a giggle.

That one was just a washout with much gravel, sticks and rocks but no obvious road damage.

About 25 miles later, after passing through Chesapeake Beach and North Beach with nice views of the Bay on a sunny, breezy day I hit the final road closure on the only direct road between North Beach and Fairhaven, my planned rest stop before the final 18 miles or so. This is a short stretch of essentially Bay-level road seperating the Chesapeake Bay from some wetlands and had major road damage that probably occurred weeks ago but once again was hike-a-bike-able around the piles of construction material.

The hike-a-bikes slowed things down but also reduced traffic on both sides of the closures – but these are all pretty low traffic roads, anyway. The last 18 miles had a number of gravel patches where there had been washouts but no more closures.

Rising Bay levels and warmer waters causing weather patterns to be more extreme have unfortunately made this a regular occurrence. The places that used to flood still do, but now there are many other problem areas.

This ride, like many others I do, spans multiple counties and neither of them have solid sources of current road closure info. Since there are very few formal groups rides due to the pandemic, don’t have the regular flow of info from club sites, either. Will have to add a bit more research time before rides down that way.

Avid cyclist, sometimes touring cyclist. My main road bike is a Trek Domane SL6, my touring/unpaved riding bike is now a Jamis Renegade. I'm located in Maryland, about midway between Baltimore and Washington DC.

5 response to "Empty Roads, Unless You Count the “Road Closed” Signs"

  1. By: gregblood Posted: November 16, 2020

    Road closed? I have yet to see the closed road a bike can’t get around. Once I went around a “Bridge Out” sign, fully prepared to wade across the stream with my bike on my shoulder. I could have done it too, but the bridge was still crossable, so I took that option. Lest you think I’m a complete fool, I probably wouldn’t have done it in flood conditions (or if there were other cyclists moaning for help from a sinkhole.)

    • By: jpescatore Posted: November 17, 2020

      Around here it is 50/50 whether Road Closed will stop me or not. On weekend, the usual problem is a bridge out over a sharply banked river. During the week, it is often active construction and occasionally the workers say no way.

  2. By: Bill Stone Posted: November 16, 2020

    Glad you made it through the closed roads. Unlike Greg, I’ve encountered closures I couldn’t get around. Once upon a time I mapped out a ride for Jeff and me through the Delta, relying on a car ferry over a branch of the Sacramento River for the final stage. Unfortunately, it turned out the ferry was out of service for maintenance that day, and we had no choice but to do a lot of backtracking. Not quite the same as a closed road, but enough to at least remind me to call ahead to see if the ferry is out of action.

  3. By: The Navigator Posted: November 17, 2020

    What, are you saying we’re already experiencing climate change? No way. Actually, we are happy here that Biden got in so that he can pressure our crap Prime Minister into setting real emissions reductions targets instead of the fluff we have now. I have come across a few Road Closed spots that were impassable because they were still in flood. But my favourite one was where there was no road closed sign. They’d handed out flyers to the residents a few days previous on the rural road (really its only usual users) to say it would be closed through the day. So no road closed sign. I came up to the site, the road workers waved me on. The only problem was there was a trench a couple feet wide dug all the way across the dirt road and a steep drop-off down the embankment to the side. So I had to jump the trench with my loaded bike, launching from an unstable sandy platform to slippery gravel on the other side right next to the steep embankment. I made it. The road workers gave me a round of applause, and then told me about the flyers.

    • By: jpescatore Posted: November 17, 2020

      If I tried that, the next biker would find me unconscious in the trench…

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