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independence day – riverwalk ride

RIding the glass bridge from Hunter Museum of Art; Chattanooga Riverwalk

Crossing on the glass bridge from the Hunter Museum of Art; Chattanooga Riverwalk

Summer is here, the Tour de France has officially started, and yesterday was Independence Day.

After spending the earlier part of the day glued to the Tour on television, we had an early BBQ at home and then headed toward Coolidge Park in downtown Chattanooga, via the Riverwalk – by bike.

The Riverwalk Route (map) is a leisurely bike (& pedestrian) path ride, winding from the TVA dam, near Amnicola Highway, into downtown Chattanooga/Ross’s Landing.  It passes through several parks and picnic areas, the Amnicola wetlands/swamp (which despite the sound, is really lovely), and along the Tennessee River into downtown Chattanooga.  Most of the scenery is picturesque, with the exception of a couple of industrial areas you pass through near the downtown end of the trail.  Currently, I believe the contiguous path is about 8 miles in length – from TVA dam to downtown (16 mi. roundtrip for out-and-back).  It’s a great opportunity for family riding, being almost entirely flat, smooth, and mostly free from street crossings.

Upon reaching the Bluff View Art District, you will need to travel one small stretch of low-traffic street to get to the continuation of the path near the Hunter Museum of Art.  At the museum, you get to cross the slick little glass bridge (shown above); it offers a neat view of down below, as well as the Aquarium and the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge.

The guys, riding merry-go-round style in front of the Hunter Museum of Art.

The guys, riding merry-go-round style in front of the Hunter Museum of Art.

A quick cross over the Walnut Street Bridge and you are in Coolidge Park – home to the weekend downtown Marketplace as well as the venue for concerts and other gatherings.

I had the trusty Xtracycle to haul a blanket, our camp seats, a cooler, and the rest of the necessary odds & ends. We picked a shady spot to park ourselves, and enjoyed a couple of hours relaxing and people-watching.  Chattanooga Outdoors was supposed to be offering a Bike Valet Service for the July 4th gathering, but we must have missed it.

Coolidge Park and the Walnut Street Pedestrian/Bike Bridge

Coolidge Park and the Walnut Street Pedestrian/Bike Bridge

We hung out till near-dusk and decided to head back, skipping the fireworks, etc.  We’re a little unclear on the official Riverwalk policy, but I believe that sections of it are closed at sundown.  There are a couple of lockable metal gates along the path, and we didn’t want to take the chance of getting trapped-out of riding back.  I need to investigate this matter further, because we’ve often considered riding down for an evening Lookouts game, but are not sure we’d have access to the path to get us back.

We missed the Bike Valet - oh, well...

We missed the Bike Valet - oh, well...

It’s always encouraging to see the efforts being made by more and more cities to become more bike and pedestrian friendly.  I’m happy to say I think we should add Chattanooga to the list.  If you ever have a chance to use the Riverwalk to explore the city, or just to take a leisurely ride, you won’t be disappointed.

Kinda nice to add a new meaning to Independence Day – independence from the car!

today’s ride: river crossing

crossing the Hiwassee River (Bradley County to Meigs County)

crossing the Hiwassee River (Bradley County to Meigs County)

Exquisite day to ride … sunny, not too hot, little wind, no traffic.  Just doesn’t get any better. 🙂

I’ve done portions of this ride as an out-and-back, but decided to find a way to make it into a loop.  Map My Ride proved to be a very useful tool.  There are limited road crossings over both the river and dealing with the interstate (I-75), but managed to plot a wonderful, low-traffic and picturesque loop.  It touches three counties – starting with Bradley (home), Meigs, and finally McMinn and back into Bradley.  A few hills to make things interesting, but nothing epic.  Otherwise you’ll get lovely gently rolling and smoothly paved rural roads, with a few scenic water crossings.

great pavement, gorgeous scenery (Lower River Road, Bradley Co.)

great pavement, gorgeous scenery (Lower River Road, Bradley Co.)

Two interesting country stores along the way – throw-backs to the rural grocery & bait shop days.  The few miles by main road (Hwy 58, Co. Rte. 163 into Calhoun) all have ample, clean and very bikeable wide shoulders.  Literally an entire lane-width of debris-free pavement to keep out of the way of vehicles.

A great distance for a lovely spring or autumn day.  Just doesn’t get much better…

Here’s the link to the mapped route :

View Interactive Map on MapMyRide.com

Picture 3

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