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Back Roads Century in Shepherdstown Offers Biking and Much More!
by Marianne Davis, Back Roads Century Event Planner
If you can do only one ride with Potomac Pedalers this year, make it the Back Roads Century, September 17–18. PPTC’s premier annual event draws both members and people new to the club, many of whom travel hundreds of miles to participate. The BRC offers a century, a metric, a half, and two shorter rides through the sometimes challenging and always lovely terrain of West Virginia and Virginia. Rest stops will offer varied supportive fare, much of it drawn from the small sustainable farms of this region. Everyone will find at least one rest stop with live music to get them ready to finish the ride. Twenty-five hundred riders and volunteers will participate, many of them bringing family and friends for a full weekend of fun. PPTC has added more motorcycle marshals, more signage, and another rest stop to enhance the BRC’s reputation as the finest ride in the region. In addition, the post-ride party on the magnificent grounds of Bellevue will be extended an hour. Eat, stretch and relax as you gaze at the Potomac far below.
This year, the Back Roads Century will set itself apart from the pack with several innovations:
- Optional electronic cue sheets with embedded historical information. Shepherdstown was settled by 1720, and life in this region has been eventful ever since. Riders will go right past the sites of dozens of Civil War events, and through countryside first surveyed by George Washington.
- Optional electronic cue sheets with embedded habitat information provided by the Potomac Valley Audubon Society. Fields, riversides, forested areas, farmland, and tiny settlements attract varied wildlife — from songbirds to raptors, and from mink and marmots to bobcats and bears.
- Special events in Shepherdstown for riders and non-riding family and friends. Take in a show, learn more about our African American heritage, indulge your love of history, go on a ghost walk, listen to live music, or go hiking or kayaking.
Do you know Shepherdstown? Home to Shepherd University, the town is enriched by professors and students alike. Southern Living magazine calls this oldest town in West Virginia one of the Top Ten Small Towns of the South, and it’s time you discovered why.
Shepherdstown considers three great National Historic Parks — Antietam, Harpers Ferry, and the C&O Canal — its “backyard.” Add the Potomac and local streams and you have an outdoor paradise for flatwater or whitewater recreation, cycling, hiking, fishing, running, and climbing. Boats and bikes are available for rental; Shepherdstown Pedal and Paddle will even pick up your bike upstream and swap it for a kayak so you can relax on the way back. Two Rivers Treads, the internationally-known center for minimal running, is your headquarters for shoes and route advice.
Europeans were in Shepherdstown by 1719; the U.S. Army was born here in 1775 when a company of riflemen marched six hundred miles to Massachusetts in twenty-four days. A steam-powered boat ran on the Potomac decades before Robert Fulton perfected his. Rich soil made this region the breadbasket of Virginia in the 19th century, and the confluence of rivers and railroads made it a prize during the Civil War. It is no wonder that riders will go right past the sites of dozens of Civil War events.
You can arrange a guided tour of the lovely town that boasts three entire streets in the National Registry of Historic Places. The BRC coincides with the commemoration of the Battle of Antietam, so there will be plenty to see and do. Shepherdstown was the site of one of the first businesses in the region built and owned by African Americans; the Historic Shepherdstown Museum tells the story of the Red Sox, an African American baseball team that played here over several decades. Yet, Shepherdstown is a 21st century town despite its 18th and 19th century architecture. This is the home of SkyTruth, which uses satellite data and images to safeguard the environment, to expose corporate abuses, and to fight the international slave trade.
The only chains in this town are bike chains. Shops are independently-owned and independent-minded. You can commission handmade fine jewelry, shop for the highest quality American crafts, or find clothes that no one else will be wearing at your next barbecue. You’ll also find fine wines and beers at great prices. Sunday’s Farmers Market offers morning baked goods; organic meats, fruits, and veggies; and a wealth of other treasures all locally and sustainably created.
The service may be quick, but the food is never fast in Shepherdstown, which was selected to compete for Foodiest Town in WV against cities fifty times its size. Vegans and carnivores will be happy here. Have a traditional regional breakfast, save room for a French, English, Thai, Middle Eastern, Japanese, or Mexican lunch, then splurge on one of our award-winning restaurants for dinner.
With the charming Thomas Shepherd Inn, The Inn at Moler’s Crossing, Whistling Wind Farm, and other bed and breakfasts, European elegance at the Bavarian Inn, modern comfort at the Clarion Hotel, and budget-friendly stays at the Quality Inn, Shepherdstown has lodgings for everyone. This year, PPTC and Shepherdstown will be experimenting with a small program offering rooms in private homes in return for a donation to a great partner, the Shepherdstown Visitors Center.
Finally, it’s hard to avoid live music or theater in Shepherdstown. Musical choices range from bluegrass, to folk, to alt rock, punk, and yes, classical. All things Shepherdstown are on the Visitors Center website, Shepherdstown.info. Check their Facebook page, too, for up-to-the-minute news on sales and restaurant specials as well as performance information.
A wonderful ride through beautiful and varied terrain and a great little town. Who could want more than the Back Roads Century? We’ll see you in September!