Biking the NCR Trail

flags in Parkton

I’m a Brand Ambassador for Enterprise CarShare. In return for sharing my photos, I get three free trips from the carsharing service. For my first trip, I went on a lovely loop around western Maryland, including a stop in Shepherdstown.

For my second trip, I returned to Maryland but this time went north, to Monkton, and the Northern Central Railroad Trail (NCR). Loading up my Specialized Sirrus in the back of a Nissan Rogue, I got an early start on a very steamy Sunday.

A couple hours later, I was in Monkton Station, the most scenic starting point on the trail – and the most crowded. Parking restrictions meant that I had to park a couple blocks away, on a side street. But I had a bike so it didn’t matter to me. I rolled over the bridge and onto the trail.

Monkton Station
Monkton Station on the NCR Trail is a popular spot for biking, hiking and tubing.

And into the mud. Epic rains had hit the night before, flooding the nearby town of Ellicott City. The trail had some big puddles and some muddy patches to traverse. There was even a tree down. My Specialized Sirrus is an older model with skinny tires. It got wobbly at times passing through the mud.

NCR Trail
NCR Trail has a crushed stone surface with some muddy patches.
Gunpowder River
Gunpowder River

The trail follows the Gunpowder River upstream. It’s an incline that I only noticed by the amount I was sweating. Trail amenities (like water) are sparse once you get north of Monkton. It’s a pleasant ride through the woods with a river for company. Lots of runners on the trail, utilizing several access points along the NCR.

A dozen miles in, and I was about out of water. But, by then, I was really close to the Mason-Dixon Line, so I kept going for the photo-op. Pretty cool to pass over the line and then cross into another state.

Bike at the Mason-Dixon Line
Made it to the Mason-Dixon!

At the Pennsylvania border, the trail becomes the York Heritage Trail as it rolls into New Freedom. What a cute trail town! Reminded me of the towns along the WO&D except this one had a real steam engine plying the rails. I had lunch and waited for my friend Bob, who started later, and caught up with me at the trailside cafe in town.

Steam engine in New Freedom
A working steam train in New Freedom.
Me in New Freedom, PA
I did not visit the Party Caboose.

On the way back, most of the mud had dried, so we flew downhill. Bob exited at Parkton, which had a very cool stone bridge and a former bank that had been turned into a private residence.

There was a slight uphill portion getting back to Monkton. I passed people carrying tubes along the trail. They put in the river upstream and float down to Monkton. It was a long walk for them – at least a mile. After hours in the muggy heat, I was ready to get home.

Tubers and bikes in Monkton
Carrying tubes upstream at Monkton.

In the morning, there had just been a couple cars on the side street where I parked. When I returned in the afternoon, cars were everywhere and there was a tow truck on the street. Time to leave. My bike was covered in soft sand and mud. I put it in the back of the Rogue and took off.

The NCR Trail is a beautiful woodsy trail – but the Heritage Trail in Pennsylvania looks even nicer. I hear there’s ice cream along the trail, too. That’s my kind of bike ride. Looking forward to going back to New Freedom and riding it north to York.

OUTBOX: The Future of Work?

Think outside the office. Opening day for OUTBOX, a pop-up outside office in Silver Spring. #dtss #md #merrland

I’ve got one word for you: BOXES. Whether it’s a tiny house or a new transit van, the future is modular. It’s four walls and temporary, brought to you when and where you need it.

That’s the thought behind OUTBOX, temporary outdoor office space constructed in downtown Silver Spring. Created by students at Montgomery College, they describe it as:

OUTBOX is an innovative workspace offering on-the-go professionals a perfect spot to escape the office this season. Work, ideate and create in the fresh air.

student designers at OUTBOX

Beats the hell out of my windowless, gubment-issued cubicle so I was dying to check it out. OUTBOX is as described, an open-air, covered space with chairs, tables and wifi.

Cool, but probably not necessary in downtown Silver Spring, where there must a dozen places you can work in, from coffee shops to the public library. I’d rather go to Peet’s.

Where this would be ideal, however, are places far from city centers where wifi is ubiquitous. When I was traveling out west last year, I would’ve loved OUTBOX. It would be perfect for a Utah rest stop in the middle of nowhere, allowing travelers a chance to check their email, look up hotels and reconnect to the world.

Meeting in a box. Office workers enjoy a sojourn outside the office in OUTBOX, a Silver Spring pop-up #dtss #merrland #md #igdc

OUTBOX would also be great at places where you need temporary workspace, like a convention or a concert. It would make a great press room for reporters, social media mavens and photographers covering such events.

Cheap, flexible workspaces are the future. Investing in massive buildings filled with white-collar workers is a waste of money. Why pay for half-empty desks? Here’s to a better alternative, one that employees might enjoy more: the box! It might not be OUTBOX but we’re all going to be working and living in such places pretty soon.