Sunday, November 7, 2010

Route #6, And Now, For Something Completely Different (Stagecoach, Barbee Chapel)

About 18 miles, 1 hour 15 minutes

Google map begins at end of Tobacco Trail because bike only routes are beta and don't support embedding

I want a dedicated bike route between Chapel Hill and Durham. Unfortunately, that isn't going to happen anytime soon, so I decided to see if I could use the American Tobacco Trail (ATT) as part of my commute to Chapel Hill.  I was not optimistic, but I actually found a decent route that uses the entire north end of the Tobacco Trail, and does not require travel on a deadly stretch of highway 54.

The American Tobacco Trail is a Rails-to-Trails
project stretching from downtown Durham to Wake County
The American Tobacco Trail:
The ATT is wonderful, but at this point it doesn't go in a direction that is useful for my commute to Chapel Hill. However, I did find a route that is comparable to the Mt. Sinai route in length that incorporates a seven-mile ride down the ATT from downtown Durham to the Southpoint Crossing shopping center (note this is not Southpoint Mall, but it is nearby). The ATT is flat, smooth and free of motorized vehicles making for a super pleasant ride for the first seven miles of this commute.

The Stagecoach Shunt:
There is not a good direct route to get from the current end of the Durham ATT to Stagecoach Road. I take the combination of Highgate Drive, Audubon Lake Drive and NC751 to get to Stagecoach Road. Highgate and Audubon Lake cut through an area that looks like big development was at one point planned then completely abandoned. Except for a couple of car dealerships and some apartment complexes there is nothing back in this area. On NC751 I rode on the sidewalk until I reached the Greek Orthodox church, where I crossed the street and rode on 751 for the last half-mile to Stagecoach Road.

Audubon Lake Drive at Johnson Victory Circle Roundabout

Stagecoach Road:
Stagecoach Rd Near Barbee Chapel Rd
On the day I took this route I was running late leaving for work so most of my travel was after rush-hour.  That said Stagecoach Road was a very pleasant ride at 9:30 in the morning. The shoulders are very wide most of the way. The traffic was low and cars seemed to be very bike tolerant and friendly.  Stagecoach passes through part of the Jordan Lake preservation area and through farms, so the scenery is quite nice.

Barbee Chapel Road:
Barbee Chapel Road has a bit more traffic than Stagecoach but is fairly wide so it's never a tight squeeze for a car to get by a cyclist.  There are several housing developments along Barbee Chapel leading to the higher traffic, more vehicles entering and exiting the road and ugly scenery.
Barbee Chapel Road

Old Mason Farm Road

Finley Golf Course:
From Barbee Chapel I cut though Finley Forest to the UNC Friday Center park-and-ride lot where I was able to catch the bike path that runs along 54. I took this bike path over to Finley Golf Course Road where I turned to get away from 54 again.  Finley Golf Course, which turns into Old Mason Farm Road back by the golf course is a nice but narrow road with very little traffic because it only loops back to 54. Once at 54 I cross, with the aid of a traffic signal, (if there was not one it would be impossible to cross here).

Laurel Hill Road:
Here's your hill. Up to this point this ride is flat, flat, flat, and Laurel Hill is payback. Get your bike in low gear and get started it takes a while to get to the top. I recommend going up through this residential neighborhood in October because it smells amazing. If you're not from the south you probably don't know what a fragrant tea olive is, one ride through this neighborhood in October and you'll never forget.

Ridge Road and Manning Drive:
These are just campus roads that go with the requisite warnings about riding on the UNC campus. Watch out for students, buses and tigers of which there are many.

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