Patapsco and Local Reservoirs Ride

Map of the Patasco and Reservoir Ride

This fun ride starts from the Crossroads Pub in western Howard County. This is great place to grab a bite to eat before getting started and this one is quite a long ride. Katie and I started this ride headed toward the Crossroads Pub and met up with Alan along the way. He signaled that he needed gas, so I routed us to a nearby gas station. There were a couple within a mile, but I decided to go to one a little farther away. The one I selected was about 4 miles away (and about 20 cent less per gallon).

I did not realize that Alan was really low on fuel. The F800S has a countdown on the number of miles left in the tank that is really accurate. The countdown on my R1200GS ends when there is about a third of the tank left. Well, we were pulling off on an exit ramp that runs uphill to our gas stop, and Alan began to fall behind. The road to the gas station makes a large U, so I parked my bike and ran over to see if he needed a hand. This time the countdown on his fuel gauge was a little optimistic. The readout said he had nine miles to go, but the F800S sputtered and died within the last 200 yards.

Riding through the shade

We reached the Crossroads Pub without any other troubles and began our ride. For complete turn-by-turn directions, please click here. An overview map is shown on the right and a more detailed map of the first section is available here. Howard County is in the process of repaving and upgrading the surface of many roads in this area, and I ran across four or five closed roads within the first few miles. By the end of the Summer in 2007, the gravel used to cover the patches had been washed away or permanently attached to the road surface. In many places where these repairs were performed, a new layer of asphalt has been rolled onto the surface. There are still ongoing efforts in the area, but the closed roads have been reopened. I have not seen any new large patches where tar and gravel are used to repair the surface prior to rolling new asphalt. This type of pavement upgrade is really irritating for motorcycles because the top layers of gravel are not attached to the road surface at all. During the repair work, these gravel patches were intermittent with no warning and often showed up in corners.

Riding through the Liberty Reservoir

We managed to avoid most of the roadwork, but if we went any further south, we would likely find plenty. This roadwork continues in areas all the way to Sugarloaf Mountain. We followed our route and crossed under Route 70 and found our way into the Patapsco State Park. This is one of the back roads that is a favorite of cyclists, and there are many times that little or no traffic is on these roads. Unfortunately, some of the rush hour traffic has found this as a shortcut to get around the back ups near routes 29 and 70. This part of the route is almost completely in the shade and is much cooler than the open highway.

Prettyboy Reservoir Dam

We worked our way around the Liberty Reservoir and enjoyed the long twisting roads with very few intersections. This type of road always stands out as one of my favorites. I have been here several times and like to find ways to incorporate these quiet, curving roads into my routes. After the second bridge crossing, we headed north to find the Prettyboy Reservoir.

Custom Trike made from Historic Car

This section of the trip is shown in the zoom in map available here. The Prettyboy Reservoir was built from 1930 to 1933 at a cost $4,110,125 where $2,333,732 was the cost of the dam. The dam holds back 20,000,000,000 gallons of water, and with 7 bridges and 10.3 miles of roads, the ride around the Prettyboy Reservoir is the highlight of the reservoir section of this trip. We stopped for a break along our northern most point on the reservoir. There is an additional loop around the northern tip, but we skipped that on this ride. We got back on our bikes and headed to the dam where we stopped again. We met up with a group of trikes, motorcycles with sidecars, and one small Honda Goldwing. It is kind of odd to refer to a Goldwing as small, but in this group it definitely was the smallest. There was even a trike made from a historic car. In fact it even still had seat belts.

Water Cascading Down Prettyboy Reservoir Dam

They were a good group to talk with, but we were headed in opposite directions. We took a minute to look over the dam before we continued our ride. Often there is water cascading over the top section of the dam. I grabbed a picture with cascading water from an earlier trip for this web page. It is a short hike to the bottom, but the stairs have an odd step height making the climb up go more slowly.

Water Cascading Down Prettyboy Reservoir Dam

We worked our way southward following the right side of the first zoom in map, and reached the Patapsco State Park again. This is an easy section, and we worked our way around the twisting roads to old Ellicott City. This zoom in map shows the one section where there was a bit of a challenge. The right hand turn on the northern most section is significantly sharper than 90°, and making this turn as the pavement switches from uphill to level is a bit unexpected. It is easy to overshoot this corner and get into the lane of oncoming traffic. In a matter of a few minutes, we went from scenic countryside to downtown Ellicott City.

We parked in the town parking lot and went to the roof deck in Cacao Lane Restaurant. This upper deck is not open every day, and if you do not ask about it on the first floor, you may never find it. This relaxed atmosphere makes this dinner stop really great. If you miss Cacao Lane, there are several other restaurants up and down Main Street. These are all local places and not the usual food served by the chain restaurants.

End of the Ride

After our meal, we headed down Main Street and made a left into the historic housing section. I made this short detour to avoid a blind, downhill, hairpin turn onto Thistle Road. This was quite a pleasant surprise to see the historic homes before heading down to the Patapsco River. We followed the Patapsco State Park until we reached Route 1. I thought this would be a good place to stop for gas. We worked our way northward through Elkridge and found our way to Race Road. This road has been interrupted in a couple places by modern roads, but the character of it is still quite clear. Race Road is a bunch of twisting corners that do not appear to be engineered like the modern roads that cut across it. I suspect that this was at one time a dirt road to the Laurel Race Track.

Sunset at End of the Ride

We finished our ride at the intersection of Race Road and Coca-Cola Drive. There is a large patch of dirt here that was once a local dirt bike favorite. That has unfortunately come to an end since someone was hurt and the no trespassing has been enforced. With a nice sunset, this is also a good place to end this trip. Route 100 intersects Coca-Cola Drive for easy access to highways home.