You don’t have to be a hardcore cyclist to join the ride at the Tour de Chesapeake, when Mathews County invites families to explore the banks of the Bay on two wheels.
Just ask Lynn Miller. During the annual event that will be held on May 21 this year, she joins her pedal pals to bike wonderfully scenic Mathews County. The entire community welcomes visitors to enjoy one or all four of the flat routes — the lack of hills is a perk for casual bikers — while partaking in local eats and hospitality.
“The community is so bike-friendly to begin with,” Miller says. “You will see entire families cycling. It’s self-paced and a beautiful place to pedal.”
While the ride is supported on Friday with well-stocked rest stops, a farmers market, artisan vendors, an art show and live music, folks are encouraged to make a weekend of it. Those with recreational vehicles can park at Lee Jackson School after 4 p.m. on Friday, May 20 for a $15 fee; restrooms and showers are available at the middle school next door, which also doubles as the start line. Campers with tents are invited to join “Tent City,” where overnighters set up sleeping bags and tents behind the meddle school free of charge. Of course, visitors can also choose indoor lodging at a local B&B or rent from the Mathews County Cottage Program.
Mathews Visitor Center and Main Street merchants will keep their doors open late, and signage denoting the routes will remain in place through Sunday.
“My favorite ride is to start at the courthouse and go to Williams Wharf,” Miller said. “I catch the water taxi there — you just toss your bike in — go across the water and get off to pedal more at Mobjack.”
The water taxi can carry up to six passengers with their bikes at a time for a $2 (cash only) fee. For variety, pedal back on Route 14.
The routes range from 23 to 30 miles apiece; the longest takes you to Gwynn’s Island and back. No matter the path, you’ll be close to the water.
“We bring a kayak and stay for three days because we love it so much,” Miller said.
Kayak and stand up paddleboards are available for rental. Neck, shoulder and ride recovery yoga are offered during and after the event. The Tour de Chesapeake concludes Saturday evening with a seafood feast and party at Williams Wharf from 5-9 p.m.
Miller has collected several souvenirs over the years, including handcrafted mugs from The Poddery, which features the area’s largest selection of pottery. The owners line their driveway with their wares and invite cyclists inside during their Mobjack trek.
Mostly Miller appreciates the memories she’s made over the years. She’s met several friends cycling but encourages anyone who likes to bike to sign up solo as it’s easy to connect with others along the way.
“Mathews is just beautiful country, and the community is so welcoming,” she says. “Just getting out there and doing it is the fun part.”
Online registration for the Tour de Chesapeake has closed, but walkup registration is available.