I just returned from a trip from Harrisburg, PA to St. Petersburg, FL and thought that I would share some of my thoughts. The trip was quite uneventful, but I did learn some things that I thought might be helpful to others.
First, I should mention preparation and planning. I rode 30 - 40 miles per day for about six weeks prior to the trip. This proved to be more than adequate preparation, as my legs were never tired or sore (my rear end was another matter, as I mention later). I planned my route by getting the Adventure Cycling Atlantic Coast map set. The maps proved to be disappointing in a couple of respects. First, the maps followed mostly two-lane roads, which in itself was fine. However, few of the roads had a shoulder, and traffic on them could sometimes be fairly heavy. I felt very sorry for commercial drivers who were unable to pass me as I cranked up some hills at 6 mph. I would have gladly traded some additional traffic for a shoulder. In addition, there were very few services available along the route. I'm a little old (59) for stealth camping, but I often had no choice at the end of the day. I would have appreciated it if the route had taken me closer to hotels or campgrounds. I eventually got so frustrated with the maps that I got off the route after Richmond and used state road maps to create my own route. That decision provided a mixed blessing, as I still sometimes ended the day without a place to stay, but at least I had no one to blame but myself.
The bike and components performed remarkably well. I had no mechanical problems, not even a flat! The tires were Continental Contacts, which I don't particularly like, as I find them to have significant rolling resistance. However, I certainly can't complain about 1300 miles without a flat. The bike I rode has a Jamis Aurora frame, which was comfortable for the entire trip. I used a Campagnolo triple setup (9-sp) for derailleurs, crank and cassette. The Campy setup is certainly not intended for touring, but I found it more than adequate. The crank was a 30 - 42 - 52, and I'm not sure what gears were on the cassette. Some gearheads may find that setup appalling, but I don't think that I used the small chainring more than once or twice after I got south of Richmond. When I was younger, I did some short (5-day) tours using 42-52 double cranksets, so the 30 chainring was something of a luxury, anyway. I used a Brooks Professional saddle, which I liked a lot. My rear end was certainly sore at the end of the day, but it never became unbearable. I averaged 70+ mile days, with one long day of 115 miles. The one component I used that I didn't like was a Wipperman chain. As the trip wore one, it became the noisiest chain I've ever used. I tried lubing it and adjusting the derailleurs, but nothing worked. It got to the point where it was embarrassing, but it shifted fine and didn't skip gears, so I continued to use it. In the future, I might spend the extra money to get a Campy chain. I used Arkel panniers and appreciated the many pockets. However, they certainly weren't waterproof, so I needed to keep some gear in dry sacks.
For future tours, I think that I'll rely more heavily on Google Maps, and less on Adventure Cycling. Otherwise, I don't think that I would change anything except the Wipperman.
great post Palmer,you sure were pushing on the big miles, i know campag is hard to beat for quality but you need imho to change to shimano xt if for nothing else at least you will have a much bigger range of gears.i dont see the point in not having fully waterproof panniers ortlieb are fantastic.
so much for adventure cycling maps next time maybe a satnav might be the way to go.
I myself have been giving the same ride a thought or two in my mind. I would be pulling off about 30 miles before St. Pete though. Perhaps I missed it, but how many riding days did it take you? Were there any sights that you missed and wish you hadn't? Any rail trails along the way that took you out of traffic? Did you hook up with the Pinellas Trail at all once you got to Pinellas County, FL?
The overview of the adventure cycling maps looked as though they would guide me down the wrong coast and I had been wondering what do do about that. I guess I'll look at Richmond as a potential turning point to head my own way as well.
YoKev - It took me almost three weeks to take the trip. I only took one day off (rain). I left on October 10th and arrived on October 30th. I do wish that I had taken a little more time for sightseeing, but I had to be in Florida by Nov. 5th and was worried that I wouldn't get there in time.
Riding along the James River in Virginia was really neat with the old plantation homes. I was sad to miss "America's Largest Pork Display" in North Carolina, but it was 12 miles off my path, so I didn't feel like taking the time. I also wish that I had spent more time in Crystal River, FL, which has a large population of wintering manatees. Other than those places, I just enjoyed pedalling through the cotton fields and talking to the folks who were invariably hanging out at the convenience stores in all the small towns.
The Mt. Vernon bike path (Arlington to Mt. Vernon) was wonderful and I would highly recommend it. The Adventure cycling maps also take you on the Rock Creek Trail through D.C., which was nice, but a little rough in some places and not as well marked as I would have liked. I did take the Pinellas Trail, which was better than the Rock Creek Trail but has a lot of road crossings. I seemed to be the only cyclist who paid attention to all the stop signs on that trail - every one else just cruised right through, and drivers seemed O.K. with that behavior.
One thing I don't like about the Atlantic coast route is that you don't seem to be near the coast very much. Is that a misrepresentation on ACA's over all route map or are you really 50-100 miles away from the coast the whole trip?