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  1. #1
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    I would like to ride my bike from Northern VA to Charleston, SC....Can it be done?

    Hello, bike forum! The last time I posted here, I was considering a bike trip in the Deep South, but nothing ever came out of that. Instead, I would possibly like to ride my bike from my parents' house in Northern VA all the way to Charleston, SC. In theory, according to the American Cyclist Association (ACA), there's a "trail" that goes along the Atlantic Coast, with a "spur" going to Charleston. However, in looking at the ACA website, it does not give any specifics about where the trail is located, if there even IS an actual bike trail. Are those "trails" on the ACA maps really just roads that I share with cars? Or a combination thereof? Could anyone shed light on that?

    If there is indeed a bike trail, I would love to "upgrade" my mountain bike (hence, make it more "suitable" for a long touring trip), get a luggage rack that I attach to the bike a drag behind me (sorry, I forgot what that's called), and just get on my bike and ride to Charleston. I HAVE TO get out my parents' house...I'm 29.5 years old. Too old to be living at home. I would like to picture this trip as a "soul-searching" journey. If I can find work in Charleston, then great, I'll have a new home. If not, my bike will give me the freedom to go elsewhere. I'm going CRAZY living with my parents. I want to be free and feel the "wind in my hair." I know naysayers will say, "A mountain bike? Unless you have an actual road touring bike, forget it, it ain't gonna happen. Your bike will not make it that far." I used to ride every Sunday from my parents' house to Bethesda, MD to go to a German church service, and neither I nor my bike ever had any problems. Yes, that's nothing compared to riding from NoVA to Charleston, but it was good practice nonetheless.

    I'm hoping to leave by mid- or late March, when it's warmer out and there's no more risk (or little risk) for snow/ice, especially since I'd be going south anyway. I "budget" about 1.5-2 weeks total. Of course, it's never too early to start training, though you could say I've BEEN training for years now, with all those long bike rides over the years.

    I know it's a risk, but if no one ever took risks, where would humanity be today? Plus, I've been suicidal before, so I'm not afraid of death anymore. This stupid Obamacare is going to ruin things for me anyway (there are lots of political forums where I/you could discuss Obamacare, so please stick with this bike trip topic). Ironically, I should get Obamacare BEFORE leaving on this long bike trip, because there's always a chance of a hospital/ER visit on a trip like this!

    Why am I not flying? Because it's a PAIN to bring/check in a bike on an airplane, including excess/overweight baggage fees, amounting to, on average, $100-200! Plus, as Clark Griswold said, "Why aren't we flying? Because getting there is half the fun, you know that!"

    So...main question...can it be done? Am I being rational here? My parents' town has a really great bike shop; many of the employers "know" me (being a regular customer) and they can help me out and give me advice. For those of you who have done several long-term bike trips, do you think NoVA to Charleston is reasonable or would it be overkill for a first-time touring trip?

  2. #2
    Bike touring webrarian
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    I have done it. It is, indeed, on roads, mostly low traffic ones, though some are busier.

    You can read about my ride from Charleston to New Jersey in my journal and see lots of road photos, as well.

    It wasn't one of the best tours I've done, but I did enjoy it.
    Last edited by raybo; 02-15-14 at 01:16 PM.
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by RadfahrDavid281 View Post
    This stupid Obamacare is going to ruin things for me anyway (there are lots of political forums where I/you could discuss Obamacare, so please stick with this bike trip topic).
    So don't bring it up if you don't want others to similarly express their opinions. You made an off-topic political comment, but you want to censor everyone else.

  4. #4
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
    So don't bring it up if you don't want others to similarly express their opinions. You made an off-topic political comment, but you want to censor everyone else.

    I'm am not sure were the OP was going with that either. It has noting to do with the question. also I don't understand the rant about flying. Why would you fly between VA and SC anyway? It is less than a days drive. Very bizarre.
    "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

  5. #5
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Of course you can do it. If the motivation is sufficient. Life is mostly about motivation. We generally do what we want. Many have toured on mtb's. You can too.

    Google maps, get directions, bicycle option will show bike trails when you target an area. Green squigglies. For touring, highways are usually a better option.

    Check out www.crazyguyonabike for more resources.

    Good luck.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  6. #6
    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raybo View Post
    ...You can read about my ride from Charleston to New Jersey in my journal and see lots of road photos, as well.

    It wasn't one of the best tours I've done, but I did enjoy it.
    I enjoyed reading your journal, and the pictures. I haven't cycle-toured in over twenty-five years, but the intimate and memorable day-to-day experience of the Road came back as I read. Our touring experiences included a cross country ride from LA to Washington, DC, and we did do one trip on the Delmarva peninsula, and spent a night in Ocean City, MD.

    I bookmarked this post a few years ago because IMO, it really captured the spirit of cycle-touring:

    Quote Originally Posted by bikingshearer View Post
    A thought or two, based on personal experience....

    Also, what's the hurry? One of the joys of touring is the singleness of purpose and absence of demands. All you have to do is get there: you don't have to get there fast or get their first - and if you are touring with camping gear, odds are you can be incredibly flexible about what "getting there" means on any given day. Embrace that. Don't let your tour become an exercise in trading one rat-race for another.
    Speaking of Williamsburg, VA (not on a cycle tour), I recall that our hotel showed a repeating docudrama video of the Revolutionary War in which the Virginia patriots referred to "those miscreants and hotheads in Boston."
    Last edited by Jim from Boston; 02-15-14 at 06:14 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Yes it can be done. No the ACA route is not an off road trail. There are several rails to trails that possibly could be used. Plan the ride, ride the plan but be flexible. I have used large parts of US 301 and US 1 once I have gotten away from the larger cities in VA, NC, and SC. Great places to ride, weather will be provided.

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  8. #8
    Senior Member mustridebikes's Avatar
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    Once you hit NC there are two main routes running north to south: US Bike Route 1 and NC Bike Route 3. Depending on where in VA you are coming from, one might make more sense than the other. Both are signed fairly well, so following the route without a detailed map is possible. FWIW: NC Department of Transportation says they will mail you maps for the routes, but I've never received the ones I ordered months ago

  9. #9
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    There has not been much response to this thread, but that's okay. But I just wanted to revive this thread by saying that part of the question of "Can it be done?" is considering the cost. I'd say that a trip like this is very comparable to the expenses of, say, a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail (AT), where hikers have said that they spend an average of $1.50-2.00 per mile. So, if a trip from NoVA to Charleston is roughly 600 miles, that amounts to $900-1200 for me. But that's just an estimate/average; I could spend a lot MORE, but I could also spend a lot LESS. Just like with AT hikers, if I simply avoid restaurants and motels as much as humanly possible, I will indeed spend much less. Of course, FEW hikers and cyclists resist the temptation to eat a real meal in a restuarant (when they get tired of Ramen Noodles, oatmeal, and trail food), sleep in a motel (instead of on the soggy ground), and take a warm shower (after not doing so for days). NOT counting gear needed beforehand, here's how it breaks down for a trip like this (again, similar to AT hiking):

    Food: I'd say $10/day, so if I allot 20 days for this 600-mile trip, that's $200 for food alone. If I choose to eat at a restaurant, that's an additional $10/meal, so I'll estimate $300 total for food (see note above about restaurants).

    Motels/campgrounds: Methinks I can avoid a motel most nights, unless the weather is really bad or there's no safe place to set up camp for the night. However, some, if not most, campgrounds do charge a fee to use the campsite. This is one main difference between a cycling tour and AT hiking; at least the AT has free campsites and shelters along the way, but not so for bike routes. According to my research, cyclists either pay for a motel room or campground, set up tent in a public park like a homeless person (risky!), find a local who rents out rooms to passer-by cyclists, crash on someone's couch, and also ACA maps advertise trailer parks and the like. So, I should allow $300 for lodging.

    "Emergency fund": $500-600. (And there goes the $1200!) I would need to set aside this money for the (more than likely) event that I'll need to replace parts, or if I'm really unlucky, buy a whole new bike, somewhere along the way. Because hey, stuff happens, especially on a long trip like this! Even AT hikers need to replace gear, socks, and sometimes even shoes along the way. At the very least, I will be replacing tubes, because I keep hearing how touring cyclists get a lot of flats!

    Miscellaneous: Museums, historical sights, souvenirs, etc. I could do this trip in less than 20 days, but just like what people say about the AT, why rush it? The whole point of touring on a bicycle is to ENJOY it and stop and see sights along the way! In my case, Norfolk/VA Beach and the Outer Banks.

    I still don't know if this trip is definitely happening. But just if it does, does this budget sound reasonable to you experienced touring cyclists? Any expenses I'm missing? I'd like to hear what you experienced cyclists think! Thanks in advance!

  10. #10
    Must... ride... more... Phil_gretz's Avatar
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    You're still in the conceptual phase. Everntually, you must plan a route, research the towns, parks, and lands along your route, allocate miles to particular days, and revise your cost estimate accordingly. Food at $15 per day can be done.

    So you don't currently have a rack on your bike, and you intend to carry camping and cooking gear?

    Have you made up your packing list? Tools, spare parts, cooking supplies, clothing, toiletries, footwear, outerwear, clothing, cleaning, sleeping/camping, carrying or pannier bags (snack food and necessity storage, daily food carrying, the rest). You get the picture...

    Try some local overnight trips to see if your gear will hold up and be sufficient for a longer trip. Maybe a series of longer weekend loops would be adviseable at this point?

    Tires on your bike are...?

  11. #11
    Must... ride... more... Phil_gretz's Avatar
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    Um, David, do you have a job?

  12. #12
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    600 miles in 20 days=30 miles/day. That's paltry. At at a slow 10 mph average, you are only talking 3 hr. of riding. Nothing. And what makes you think there will be places to stay spaced such that you can average only 30 mpd? I note that you priginally budgeted 1.5-2. It's now up to 3 weeks.

    If you start out with a decent bike that has been well-maintained, the chances of you needing any new parts in 600 miles other than inner tubes are slim. Last September I rode from Pittsburgh, PA to Philly (nearly 500 miles) in 8 days and didn't even have one flat. If you need a whole new bike, you have likely been in a crash that leaves you physically unable to continue unless someone runs over your parked bike or something like that.

    As for food, why don't you give us some details? Tell us what you see yourself eating during an average day. Include a cost breakdown. Compare it to how much you currently spend on food udring the average day.

    By your own timeline, you have about 1 month max until start. Do you have all your camping and cooking gear? If not, when do you plan to get it? Do you know what you need. Do you have the money for it? Do you even have a rough idea of what the needed gear will cost?

    Trying to interject some realistic assessment into your "plan."

  13. #13
    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RadfahrDavid281 View Post
    Why am I not flying? Because it's a PAIN to bring/check in a bike on an airplane, including excess/overweight baggage fees, amounting to, on average, $100-200! Plus, as Clark Griswold said, "Why aren't we flying? Because getting there is half the fun, you know that!"
    Okay, logic wise that's flawed. It is far cheaper to pay the $100-$200 to fly your bike then it will cost you in overall money to ride from Northern Virginia to Charleston on your bike. However, your logic is correct about getting there is half the fun.... if you bicycle, 99 percent of the trip is the fun to getting there.

    Many have done that trip via the ACA route. Once you get south of Richmond, you will have a virtually hill free ride. Good luck.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by RadfahrDavid281 View Post
    I'm hoping to leave by mid- or late March,

    Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

  15. #15
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    A one-way car rental would be much cheaper, easier and faster. If you have time, the gear needed for touring can be found at a decent cost, new or used. However, unless you are planning to use it after a single trip, probably not the best decision at this point in your life. Not that you are asking for my advice, but why not just get a job and an apartment, and bike tour during your hard earned vacation?

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