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    Pittsburg-DC

    I'm trying to talk up a family tour on the Allegheny and C&O this summer.
    I'd love to hear any comments.
    My wife is not what you would call an avid cyclist, so I'm wondering if we should sag with our truck or will this ruin the sense of adventure ? All four of us can drive.
    It would certainly simplify the logistics.
    Mostly camping with maybe a couple B&B's.

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    This page from www.biketouringtips.com has 2 links to the C&O Trail. One of them is a link to a CGonB thread about places to stay on the route you are considering.

    This page provides 2 links to the GAP trail.

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Only you can say if it will spoil the sense of adventure. Also only you or your family can say whether that would work for you.

    I will say that it will mean that you will need to know ahead of time where you will be each evening unless you stay in touch with the car via two way radio or something since I wouldn't depend on cell coverage. Also you will eliminate many of the hiker-biker sites since there is no car access to most of them. I would imagine that none of the hiker-biker sites allow you to arrive by car with the gear.

    I always figured that having someone haul your gear is nice, but it complicates camping arrangements in some ways.

    I don't know the family dynamics, so I hesitate to advise one way or the other. I will say that a car does simplify some things, but can complicate others.

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    Also, C&O Canal towpath here:

    http://bikewashington.org/canal/index.php

    ...and the pretty active message board here:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/coTowpath/

    One thing you should know about dragging non-avid cyclists long distances on the towpath: it's really bumpy, and butts that aren't used to being in the saddle will hurt a lot after the first day. A few test rides before the big tour will get everyone used to it, or at least let them know what they're in for.

    Good luck, I hope you do it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Only you can say if it will spoil the sense of adventure. Also only you or your family can say whether that would work for you.

    I will say that it will mean that you will need to know ahead of time where you will be each evening unless you stay in touch with the car via two way radio or something since I wouldn't depend on cell coverage. Also you will eliminate many of the hiker-biker sites since there is no car access to most of them. I would imagine that none of the hiker-biker sites allow you to arrive by car with the gear.

    I always figured that having someone haul your gear is nice, but it complicates camping arrangements in some ways.

    I don't know the family dynamics, so I hesitate to advise one way or the other. I will say that a car does simplify some things, but can complicate others.
    Well, the one big advantage to having the vehicle with us, is eliminating the return to the starting point, which was going to be problematical.
    I think I want to at least start out in a loaded touring mode, hitting as many hiker-biker sites as possible, with the driver parking ahead and riding back to the site. It's likely by the end of the trip, I'll be the only one carrying my gear, but that would be ok, too.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by same time View Post
    One thing you should know about dragging non-avid cyclists long distances on the towpath: it's really bumpy, and butts that aren't used to being in the saddle will hurt a lot after the first day. A few test rides before the big tour will get everyone used to it, or at least let them know what they're in for.
    Yes. Also, that varies a lot with the section of the route, the season, and the recent weather. Mud, dust, bumps, and ruts are variable depending on those factors. The surface can be mostly pretty nice or pretty awful depending.

    Good luck and enjoy the trip.

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    It's a great trip and your kids will remember it forever. Just keep in mind that cell coverage from Pittsburgh to Frostburg is pretty spotty. There is a 40 mile section south of Confluence with no real civilization and no cell service. Look into the long range GMRS radios if you are doing this with a sag car. After Frostburg you'll have cell service most of the way to DC.

    Plan it out with reservations. Don't make mom and the kids go too far maybe 30-35 miles a day and maybe put in a full rest day in Cumberland and you should have a great family trip if the weather holds up. I did the trip in mid-September and the weather was perfect.

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    Senior Member neilfein's Avatar
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    The Historian and I are planning to do the same trail the first week in June, starting in Pittsburgh. You'd be welcome to ride with us if we have days in common. We're planning on camping most nights.
    Tour Journals, Blog, ride pix

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    You are probably going to leave from Pittsburgh not Pittsburg, that would be a longer ride.

    If the whole family is up for it, I'd have them all ride with you. That would be a wonderful family adventure. You can rent a van or a uhaul for the one way trip.

    Pick up a copy of The Great Allegheny Passage TrailBook. It is only $5 but covers just about everything you need.

    To order Send $5 + $4 shipping to:

    Fieldstone Press
    522 Handwerk Road
    Markleton, PA 15551 or visit www.atatrail.org

    I live 2 miles from the start of the trail in Pittsburgh. I probably won't have the space to host your whole family but if I can be of any other help like guide or shuttle just let me know.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

    Albert Einstein

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    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Here is a like that covers the Allegheny Passage

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Great_Allegheny_Passage/
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

    Albert Einstein

  11. #11
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by neilfein View Post
    The Historian and I are planning to do the same trail the first week in June, starting in Pittsburgh. You'd be welcome to ride with us if we have days in common. We're planning on camping most nights.
    Please PM either Neil F. or I if you are interested. Thanks.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by neilfein View Post
    The Historian and I are planning to do the same trail the first week in June, starting in Pittsburgh. You'd be welcome to ride with us if we have days in common. We're planning on camping most nights.
    How long are you planning to take?

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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    How long are you planning to take?
    A week, including driving to Pittsburgh in a rental car/van the first day from the Philly area.
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    I'm in the celtic folk fusion band Baroque and Hungry. "Mended", our new full-length studio album, is now available for download.

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    Quote Originally Posted by neilfein View Post
    The Historian and I are planning to do the same trail the first week in June, starting in Pittsburgh. You'd be welcome to ride with us if we have days in common. We're planning on camping most nights.
    Thanks for the offer. We are looking at the first week in August, if the whole family goes.
    If I can't get any takers, then I could bump it up to June. Have you guys planned out camping spots or will you play it by ear ?

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    A friend & I biked this last summer, starting in Pittsburgh (well, West Mifflin, actually), biking in 6 days, and staying in motels + B&Bs. We both loved the GAP Trail, and both found the C&O Canal somewhat boring. With a few exceptions, the scenery doesn't change much from Cumberland to DC. Learn what the pawpaw tree looks like, and you'll be amazed how many of them are growing along the towpath. Cell phone signals were bad to non-existent along most of the PA portion once we got 30 miles south of Pittsburgh. If I remember correctly, it wasn't much better for much of the day between Cumberland to Hancock. The towpath is indeed significantly rougher than the GAP Trail. If you get a big thunderstorm, like we got on our 5th day, the towpath will turn to mud and so will your bikes. For about 22 miles around Hancock, MD, you can ride on the adjacent and wonderfully smooth, paved, Western Maryland Rail-Trail. If you go to Harpers Ferry, as we did, DO NOT ride on 340 to cross from WV to MD. (dangerous throughout, and lots of broken glass and poison ivy on the MD shoulder). Carry your bike and panniers up and down the stairs to use the footbridge over the Potomac.

    If you visit Kentuck Knob (a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home near the better-known Fallingwater & the town of Ohiopyle), be prepared for the steepest damn hill in the world. We enjoyed visiting the house, so I guess it was worth it. If you haven't seen Fallingwater, definitely visit it.

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    I'm going to horn in on this thread because it's just what I'm looking for as I begin planning this trip for my wife and I this summer. Hopefully some of my questions will help the original poster and others.

    We'll be riding mountain bikes, staying at B&B's or motels so we'll just be carrying clothes and necessities.

    Should I use my full rigid mountain bike set up as a single speed commuter (Schwinn Paramount) or my front suspension only old school (94-95 ish) GT Zaskar? Her only choice at this point is a front susp. GT Avalanche a few years newer than mine.

    I know we'll want tires less aggressive than MTB tires, but with some tread, right? Suggestions? I assume my 1.9 and 2.1 commuting slicks could be risky if it rains.

    We will do several day trips of approximately 30 miles and at least one weekend trip of two 47 mile days to prepare for this. I am familiar with the crushed limestone of the Yough trail, but not familiar at all with the rest of the route.

    Las thing for now, any experience with outfitters? I have an email in to one. We just need someone to ride us back from DC to the Pittsburgh area in case a relative can't do it.

    Thanks alot.

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    The C&O Canal towpath surface is packed dirt or a combination of packed dirt and pebbles. If definitely gets muddy if there was recent rain. Often there is a grassy strip in the middle. The advantage of riding it in the summer is that it dries much more quickly in warmer weather. My friend & I both rode on Bike Friday New World Tourists. We had no suspension & used touring tires, not mountain bike tires. There were fine, except for the area around Harpers Ferry where a torrential thunderstorm turned that area into a muddy mess which would have been unpleasant with any bike.

    We were fortunate in that a friend gave us a ride from DC to Pittsburgh (he was driving there anyway). However, Amtrak would also work, though the arrival time in Pittsburgh isn't great (if it's on-time!), and getting from downtown Pittsburgh to the trailhead in McKeesport is another problem. I better understand that now that I've been there and have seen the roads and hills between those 2 points.

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    Senior Member DuckFat's Avatar
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    Take the Mountain Bike. There are a few hills on the GAP section and a rather brutal detour on the C&O where there are some short but very steep climbs. The front suspension will be useful on the C&O especiall below Leesburg where the path gets very bumpy. You'd think with a lot more traffic in that area that it would be smoother but it was terrible last September. I wish I had taken my Cannondale mountain bike during that section.

    You'll want some tread on the tires especially if the forecast is mixed. Wider will be more comfortable but slower. If you aren't in a hurry then just about any decent mountain bike tire would do.

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    Senior Member neilfein's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DuckFat View Post
    Take the Mountain Bike. There are a few hills on the GAP section and a rather brutal detour on the C&O where there are some short but very steep climbs. The front suspension will be useful on the C&O especiall below Leesburg where the path gets very bumpy. You'd think with a lot more traffic in that area that it would be smoother but it was terrible last September. I wish I had taken my Cannondale mountain bike during that section.

    You'll want some tread on the tires especially if the forecast is mixed. Wider will be more comfortable but slower. If you aren't in a hurry then just about any decent mountain bike tire would do.
    How would a mountain bike with smooth tires work? (Town and Country tires with a little bit of tread.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by same time View Post
    Also, C&O Canal towpath here:
    One thing you should know about dragging non-avid cyclists long distances on the towpath: it's really bumpy, and butts that aren't used to being in the saddle will hurt a lot after the first day.
    Very bumpy. My butt, used to riding 30-40 miles on consecutive days at that point, got very sore. My buddy and I started taking detours that were sometimes longer, certainly more hilly, just to get relief once in a while. One caveat is that I decided to ride 28's in solidarity w/ my friend, who was also riding 28's (he had my old road bike). The experience might be very different w/ 37's or bigger.

    Big hill on the Allegheny portion.

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    When I did my rail-trail-extrordinaire tour in 06 (New River,Greenbriar,West Fork,GAP) I ran 26x1.95 Specialized Hemispheres with a Rock Shox suspension seat post. The great thing about those tires is that you can run them at really low air pressure. The combo of sus & LP was like riding on air on the backside. The only issue for me was my hands got a little numb, even though I had gel wrap on the handlebars and good gloves.
    Tip of the day,
    go as wide as possible on the tires as your frame allows and get a sus seat post.

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    Senior Moment Member jagraham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I will say that it will mean that you will need to know ahead of time where you will be each evening unless you stay in touch with the car via two way radio or something since I wouldn't depend on cell coverage. Also you will eliminate many of the hiker-biker sites since there is no car access to most of them. I would imagine that none of the hiker-biker sites allow you to arrive by car with the gear.
    Cell phone service is getting better, but yes you're correct -- can't be depended on, especially in Fayette, Somerset (in PA) and Allegany (in MD). My daughter Libby and I tried the two-way radio thing on the C&O a couple of years ago, but gave up on it.

    Some of the nicest hiker/biker spots are in areas with no car access. Some of the worst sites we encountered had available car parking - group sites and public camp sites. There are some areas I would be wary about leaving a car unattended overnight because vandalism has occurred; and at some trailheads, overnight parking is prohibited.

    Our favorite places to camp: Cedar Creek (H/B site on the GAP) was clean, well maintained and had great tent pads AND a nice lean-to type shelter, and best of all was free; Confluence (GAP) - has a campground run by the Army Corps of Engineers (RV access) - and has a site dedicated to Hiker/Bikers, flush toilets, showers and nearby services, modest fee for H/B; Potomac Forks H/B (C&O) was scenic and deserted; Devil's Alley H/B (C&O) had good river acess and a nice spot to play in the Potomac, though I'd be wary with young children; Little Orleans Campground (nearby C&O) is a private campground about a mile from Little Orleans has two swimming pools, flush toilets, showers and a laundry - stay uphill in the primitive area of the main campground, not downhill with the fishermen (difficult to explain); Killiansburg Cave (C&O) was fun to explore the nearby area, and the bobcat we spotted there was a real treat; Turtle Run (C&O) was only a mile from White's Ferry - and when the store is open has a good breakfast (the best is the GI dayroom in Meyersdale (GAP), and we watched a spider the size of a man's fist scamper around the tree as we ate dinner at the picnic table. It threw nuts at us and yelled for us to "go away" -- I kid you not (well, maybe a little). [If you'd like to know our least favorite spots, let me know]

    You may want to pack earplugs if train noises keep you awake. In many areas there is an active rail line across the river on both the Passage and C&O, sometimes even on the same side of the river. A camping option in Cumberland, MD (the YMCA) has you camped next to an active track and it can be quite unnerving to have locomotive headlights shine into your tent at night.

    Quote Originally Posted by DuckFat
    Plan it out with reservations. Don't make mom and the kids go too far maybe 30-35 miles a day and maybe put in a full rest day in Cumberland and you should have a great family trip if the weather holds up. I did the trip in mid-September and the weather was perfect.
    I agree here too. A lot depends on whether you are fully loaded (with gear, of course) or sagged. But (or is it butt) 30 miles a day for a "non-avid cyclist" is about the max I'd do. BTW - how does she feel about camping?

    * * * *

    FWIW, Libby rides a mountain bike without the knobby tires. Until last year I was riding a Trek Navigator (a comfort bike with smooth tires with little knobs on the sides of the tires - technical, I'm not) and (sometimes) pulling a trailer (2-wheeled and BoB). Last year I switched to a Novara Randonnee (700x32) and panniers, and let Libby and her friends pull the trailer.

    We're about 45 minutes from the Ohiopyle trailhead and spend a good majority of our free time on the Passage. I grew up in the MD/DC area and spent a lot of time on the towpath as a scout.

    * * * *

    Judy Graham
    Ligonier, PA

  23. #23
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    I did this trip from PGH to DC with a makeshift group of friends in high school, and had a great time. We were driven to where the completed trail started, there was even less done seven years ago than there is now. Two of the girls had only ever been on a bike a handful of times, and we averaged 30-50 miles a day without issue. Pain in the butt, sure, you get over it. Buy some chamois support, which can be worn under regular clothing, and that will help with the sore butt. I use one from REI: http://www.rei.com/product/763566.

    We took the train back, and although it can run at times that aren't the easiest to deal with, we had no problem getting home. It was like $10-20 bucks for a bike box, and all you really had to do was take off the pedals, loosen the handlebars, and roll it into the box. One person had an older bike and got away with the pedals still attached and bulging out. Plus, it is a pretty trip, and it is fun to see the place you just biked from another angle.

    The trail is nice, and pretty easy when the weather holds up. I'm actually using it to get to the coast for the start of my TransAm journey in the beginning of April. As far as navigating thru Pittsburgh, it's not as hard as it used to be to get around. They have completed several trails in the last few years. I live in Pittsburgh, and bike daily, so if you guys want me to map out a safe route using city streets/trails I can do that. I don't usually head to McKeesport (where the trail starts), but I will!

    I'm hesitant to offer my place because I won't be in town and I don't live alone, but if you need a place to crash I doubt that it will be a problem for me to arrange something. Keep me posted on your PGH plans and I'll try to help any way that I can.

    Charlie

    CharlieBikesUSA@gmail.com
    Last edited by cptpitt22; 02-20-08 at 08:36 AM.

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