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Old 05-08-12, 12:33 PM   #1
biknbrian
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My First Tour: Great Allegheny Passage, Fall 2012

I've been riding bikes as an adult for about 6 years now. Mostly I commute. I do some mountain biking from time to time. I used to have a performance oriented road bike that I grew to loath and ended up selling cheap. For almost as long as Iíve been riding again Iíve been thinking that Iíd like to try some touringÖ someday. Well, enough of someday. Iíve finally made the decision do a short tour and see how it goes.

I plan to do my first tour this fall, mostly on the Great Allegheny Passage. Starting in Cumberland, MD, Iíll ride almost to Pittsburgh before taking the Montour Trail West. From there Iíll ride some back roads to my home in Beaver County. The trip will be around 200 miles. At about 50 miles per day it will take four days.

My current plan is to rent a car for a one way trip to Cumberland. If I can find a willing host I may stay there the night before the ride. Otherwise Iíll just do the 3 hour drive the morning I start the ride. I plan to camp the first night out on the trail. The second night I would like to try to stay in some sort of lodging. The third night I will camp again. By the fourth night I will be home.

Thatís the plan for now. Iíll post updates as things come together and after the ride. This can be my official record and it will hopefully help keep me moving toward actually making this happen.

Also, I had been thinking that I wanted to buy a touring bike, but my commuting bike should be well suited to the type of ride Iím planning. So rather than buying another bike Iíll focus my effort on getting prepared for this ride. Attached is a picture of my commuter from about two years ago, not long after I put it together. It has changed a little bit since then, and will be changed a little bit more before the ride.
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Old 05-08-12, 12:41 PM   #2
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My current plan is to rent a car for a one way trip to Cumberland. If I can find a willing host I may stay there the night before the ride.
Camp at the YMCA in Cumberland.

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Also, I had been thinking that I wanted to buy a touring bike, but my commuting bike should be well suited to the type of ride Iím planning. So rather than buying another bike Iíll focus my effort on getting prepared for this ride.
The bike you have is well-suited for the trip.

It's (somewhat) easier going from Pittsburgh to Cumberland.

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Old 05-08-12, 01:15 PM   #3
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Camp at the YMCA in Cumberland.


The bike you have is well-suited for the trip.

It's (somewhat) easier going from Pittsburgh to Cumberland.
Sometimes camping goes well, sometimes not. My plan was to start the trip with a good night's rest, even if it means driving three hours before getting on the bike. I want to do Cumberland to Pittsburgh because I can get all the transportation issues out of the way at the beginning. At the end when I'm dirty, tired and ready to be home I will be at home, not renting a car and driving.
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Old 05-08-12, 01:52 PM   #4
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Your commuter bike should be perfect for the GAP. No need for a touring bike unless you just want an excuse to buy a new bike, which I can sympathize with. Have you considered taking the Amtrak back to Pittsburgh?
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Old 05-08-12, 01:56 PM   #5
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Your commuter bike should be perfect for the GAP. No need for a touring bike unless you just want an excuse to buy a new bike, which I can sympathize with. Have you considered taking the Amtrak back to Pittsburgh?
I'm not sure if Amtrak allows bikes on that line.
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Old 05-08-12, 05:55 PM   #6
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Hey Brian,

If you want to take some weekend to learn the detours of the Montour just let me know and I would be happy to ride along as guide.

If you modify your lodging plans a bit, Rockwood is one day out of Cumberland. It has an excellent hostel. Fairly cheap for a single dorm room bed.

Next night would be Connelsville with an excellent campsite. Or go a bit further and camp for free (no showers ).

Amtrak does not currently take bikes unless you want to go all the way to DC and box your bike. That really makes me angry that they did not have roll on roll off long ago. How hard can it be?
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Old 05-08-12, 05:57 PM   #7
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The Rockwood idea is if you have a full day. If you don't want to jump right on the bike and ride when you get to Cumberland, you could camp at the YMCA and go explore Cumberland. If you get there on a weekend then you could take a train ride up to Frostburg.
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Old 05-09-12, 07:44 AM   #8
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I’m pretty set on the South to North Route. I’m also trying to keep things relatively simple and am still digging the car rental idea, quick and easy. Also, believe it or not, I’ll be working a job that I actually enjoy and one where I’m relied upon. I want to keep the trip to four days, Friday through Monday to minimize time off. Plus a relatively short and structured trip helps keep the wife happy and makes it easier for me to be certain I really want to do it. At fifty miles per day I’ll have some time to explore any towns and areas I pass through, but at this time I’m not planning to stay anywhere for more than one night

I do still have a lot of planning to do when it comes to lodging. I may decide to camp in Cumberland or splurge for a hotel on Thursday night before heading out on Friday. Rockwood area looks like a good stop for the first night, but I was leaning towards camping that day. The maps show indoor lodging in the towns of Dawson, Perryopolis, and West Newton which is close to where I want to be on the second night. Probably more big hotels, than small unique places, but that can be ok. The final night I plan to be at a rustic campground on the Montour Trail which sort of brings me to spinnaker.

I have a strong base, but I’m very conditioned to shorter, hillier rides. I want to so some long rails to trails rides just to see how 50 mostly flat miles feels. One thing I’m planning is to start at mile marker zero in Coraopolis, check out the supposed campground at mile marker 25.5, and then ride back. If I feel like I need more conditioning or experience I might also do the Panhandle trial end to end and back for 60 something miles. I feel like it’ll only take a couple rides for me to gauge where I’m at physically, and not that long to get in a little better shape if need be. So I’m not planning on doing this sort of thing until probably early August for a mid September GAP ride.

Anyway, thanks for all the suggestions and keep them coming. I have my own ideas about what I’d like to do, but I definitely consider everything that is offered. My goal right now is to get this first trip under my belt, have fun, learn what I can, and get the family used to this sort of thing.

And if anybody is still thinking “someday” like I was, maybe it’s time to make the decision. Maybe you can’t cross the country, but maybe you can try an over night trip or a more reasonable long weekend ride. I have to say that I feel so much better now that I’ve decided to make this happen.
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Old 05-09-12, 08:26 AM   #9
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Two of us did the GAP from Homestead to Cumberland in 3 days last summer, covering about 50 miles a day. We stayed at Connellsville B&B and Rockwood Trail House; both were nice and were run by pleasant people. You could do the same, but in reverse. Or you could substitute the Husky Haven campground in Rockwood, if you want to camp that first night.

We drove to Cumberland, caught a shuttle from the Cumberland Trail Connection bike shop back to Homestead and then biked back to our cars to drive home. Since one of us was from further East, this worked out well as a central meeting point. I actually drove down to Cumberland the night before we started and got a room at the Fairfield Marriott right on the trail. This all worked out great!

Good luck with your trip! That was my first short tour and I really liked it, but it pointed out the weakness in my preparation training. 50 miles was a stretch for me at that point.

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Old 05-09-12, 10:33 PM   #10
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Oh god, I'm remembering the Cumberland campsite, even with earplugs in you get to enjoy the sounds of train cars slamming into each other all night long!
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Old 05-10-12, 07:06 AM   #11
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Looking forward to reading all about the trip,my friend! I have been dreaming of doing the G.A.P. and C&O Towpath (together,or individually) for a couple years now...HOPING to be able to do one/both for '13
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Old 05-10-12, 03:44 PM   #12
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Oh god, I'm remembering the Cumberland campsite, even with earplugs in you get to enjoy the sounds of train cars slamming into each other all night long!
Well, it looks like a nice campground! I rode past it this spring while going fossil-hunting with my kid and was very impressed with the layout and organization of it all. Interestingly, during the two or three hours we were on the trail, I only heard one train and I was specifically paying attention for trains. I guess they all go through Rockwood at night!
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Old 05-10-12, 07:03 PM   #13
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Oh god, I'm remembering the Cumberland campsite, even with earplugs in you get to enjoy the sounds of train cars slamming into each other all night long!
I didn't hear too much slamming but plenty of train engines. I thought I was going to have to open the tent door to let the train through (I didn't think about the back of the tent) .

It is actually a nice site. I have stayed there twice.
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Old 05-11-12, 06:49 AM   #14
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The maps show indoor lodging in the towns of Dawson, Perryopolis, and West Newton which is close to where I want to be on the second night. Probably more big hotels, than small unique places, but that can be ok.
You might want to be careful about the lodging found on 2D maps. Remember that the trail runs along rivers valleys and that a nearby town my be much higher in elevation. As part of my planning I turned on the terrain contours in Google maps, Newton is at trail level, the other towns are not. Also before you get too far along make sure that the lodging is still operating, one of the popular B&B in Newton is no longer taking guests.

I was also planning for a 2012 GAP tour, but might push it to 2013 to wait for the "last mile" to be complete in Pittsburgh this fall.
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Old 05-14-12, 11:22 AM   #15
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Oh god, I'm remembering the Cumberland campsite, even with earplugs in you get to enjoy the sounds of train cars slamming into each other all night long!
I stayed there and didn't notice it.
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Old 05-14-12, 04:11 PM   #16
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I stayed there and didn't notice it.
But I understand the train engineers were complaining that no one could hear their signal whistles over your snoring.
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Old 05-15-12, 08:04 AM   #17
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While I understand the appeal of a one-way trip, if you have a short ride to the GAP, why not ride out and back? This way, you avoid the logistics, time and expense of getting to Cumberland in a rental car. You can also lengthen or shorten your trip for bad weather or if you are getting more tired than expected. If you see something interesting along the way, either stop or catch it on the way back.
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Old 05-15-12, 11:17 AM   #18
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While I understand the appeal of a one-way trip, if you have a short ride to the GAP, why not ride out and back? This way, you avoid the logistics, time and expense of getting to Cumberland in a rental car. You can also lengthen or shorten your trip for bad weather or if you are getting more tired than expected. If you see something interesting along the way, either stop or catch it on the way back.
I just don't like the idea of having to turn around and ride back, traveling the same route, seeing the same things, and so on. The whole second half wouldn't be nearly the adventure that the first half was. A part of me would just be thinking about getting home. With a relatively small expense the logistics of a one way trip become as easy as a three hour drive.
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Old 05-15-12, 12:31 PM   #19
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I just don't like the idea of having to turn around and ride back, traveling the same route, seeing the same things, and so on. The whole second half wouldn't be nearly the adventure that the first half was. A part of me would just be thinking about getting home. With a relatively small expense the logistics of a one way trip become as easy as a three hour drive.
Unless you are turning your head around and looking backwards, you only see the front half of things along a route. You'll see the other half on the way back. Not sure I follow the part about wanting to get home. After two days on a four-day trip, you'll presumably be in the exact same place, whether you ride one way or out & back.

Nothing easier than packing your bike up the night before and hopping on, rather than picking up a rental car, packing your bike and gear in a car, driving somewhere, returning the car and then setting the bike up. That adds at least an hour on each end, so five hours spent getting to your start point vs. zero. Still, I understand the appeal of a one way trip.
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Old 05-15-12, 02:32 PM   #20
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I have a strong base, but I’m very conditioned to shorter, hillier rides. I want to so some long rails to trails rides just to see how 50 mostly flat miles feels.
Keep in mind that the first day won’t be flat. It is pretty much a steady uphill grade for 25 miles from Cumberland. I think it is like 1500-800 feet in elevation change. Factor that into your mileage goals.

50 miles a day shouldn’t be too tough if you ride on a regular basis. My bike was about 75lbs loaded and I did 80 miles one day on a similar surface in Missouri. 40-50 is a good goal as it gives you time to smell the roses. I think we had a moving average speed of roughly 14-15mph.

I am hoping to ride the GAP in June. Depending on the time I have, I may do an out and back....If not, then I'll start in Cumberland and ride back. I am planning to stay at the Husky Haven the first night and somewhere in Connellsville the second night. I mean to do the GAP last fall, but the weather was a high in the 40s and .5” of rain everyday so an hour before leaving, we switched to the Katy trail in Missouri. Talk about no time to plan! We printed off information from the internet and read it and made calls on the 5 hours drive to St. Louis!

I’ll be riding a drop bar Salsa Vaya touring bike with 700X37 tires.
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Old 05-16-12, 01:31 AM   #21
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I have not ridden any part of the GAP, but my experience in riding much of the C&O is that it pretty much looks the same going either direction, and it pretty much looks the same for the entire length, except for the occasional tunnel, and some of the river views near Great Falls. It's like riding through one long green bumpy tunnel. Nice if you're into that sort of thing
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Old 05-16-12, 07:56 AM   #22
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I have not ridden any part of the GAP, but my experience in riding much of the C&O is that it pretty much looks the same going either direction, and it pretty much looks the same for the entire length, except for the occasional tunnel, and some of the river views near Great Falls. It's like riding through one long green bumpy tunnel. Nice if you're into that sort of thing
I haven't ridden the GAP either, but I understand there is much more to look at along the way compared to the C&O Towpath. Planning an out and back on the GAP from Cumberland this summer. The logistics and added expense of a one way trip are not worth it to me, and I'll be able to see 90% of it twice in 3 days.
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Old 05-16-12, 08:22 AM   #23
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I haven't ridden the GAP either, but I understand there is much more to look at along the way compared to the C&O Towpath.
The C&O Towpath is the "great green tube".
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Old 05-16-12, 08:36 AM   #24
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The C&O Towpath is the "great green tube".
In the spring and summer, yes, but the rest of the year, it opens up. I live a couple miles from Swains Lock at mile 16, and commute on it daily and ride it regularly on weekends year round. There is much more than meets the eye, but it's subtle. Wildlife, plants, cool shade and no traffic make it a great escape. Sometimes the river is flooding, other times it is low. The small changes on a daily basis make it interesting, but not in a way everyone would appreciate.
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Old 05-16-12, 08:53 AM   #25
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In the spring and summer, yes, but the rest of the year, it opens up. I live a couple miles from Swains Lock at mile 16, and commute on it daily and ride it regularly on weekends year round. There is much more than meets the eye, but it's subtle. Wildlife, plants, cool shade and no traffic make it a great escape. Sometimes the river is flooding, other times it is low. The small changes on a daily basis make it interesting, but not in a way everyone would appreciate.
No doubt. It's even worth while to ride in the spring and summer!
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