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First Bike Touring Trip - Voyageur's journey

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First Bike Touring Trip - Voyageur's journey

Old 08-11-19, 04:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Spaghetti Legs
. Info on your fork mount racks? .
Ah, yes. "Frugality is the mother of invention." Remember that this whole enterprise is a test. I may really like it (like riding 300 miles thru beautiful country with NO CARS) or I may not like it ( slogging a heavy, sluggish monster bike vs dashing around like an unladen African sparrow on my Crescent). So I'm keeping the investment to a minimum. How to shift weight to the front end? Spend money for stuff I have to then store somewhere and not use again OR fabricate something that will prove the concept then spend money on the proper kit?

Since the mid fork mounts were there already (thru tubes grazed into each fork leg, ready for thru bolts), I picked two of those modern, cheap aluminum bottle cages that everyone sells but look bulbous and BSOish (new adjective???) on anything. I bent each open a bit so I could fit a couple of plastic containers I had - 3" diameter x 8" tall cylinders that once held wet wipes or something. I fabricated an aluminum strap to span from the fork mid point hole to the lower fender braze on at the fork end - using the lower one ensures the QR is not obstructed. I mounted the bottle cage at the mid point hole and a third hole in the strap. I fabricated a pair of green rain covers from a supply of coated rip stop nylon I have (unused tent fly, now chopped to pieces) and secured em to the bike with Velcro straps. So far they are holding well.

The plan is to pack trail mix, granola and other food into plastic bags and stash those into these cylinders. At night they I just take them off and and into the bear bag.

BTW: there's no point explaining my DIY bike stand. Could not be duplicated. The point is that a) I don't like kick stands and b) with the sort of mass I'm carrying, only a brace off the TT is stable enough. I fabricated a two part aluminum rod that lashes to the TT, goes thru the NDS pedal strap and to the ground. Very solid set up for loading and unloading the bike. As usual I have a small wine cork wedge to lock the front brake on for added stability.

Last edited by Prowler; 08-11-19 at 05:01 AM. Reason: added info
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Old 08-12-19, 11:40 AM
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@Prowler - I'm jealous since the GAP and C&O are on my bucket list. I love your set up with the Cannondales. Best of luck on your trip and may it lead you to many more. You have me by 2 years and I give you credit for maintaining the down tube shifters. I've gone to barcons because I just don't like the reach anymore on a loaded bike.
I have a twin to your Voyageur and it has a wonderful ride. It has served me well on a 5 day tour in western WI and touring around Austria.
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Old 08-18-19, 07:25 PM
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Well, I'm as ready as I'll ever be. Kits ready, gear sorted and packed, food bundled, all checklists checked off. I'm, physically, as strong as I've been in years. The forecast looks fine for late August.

I'll set out in the morning around dawn. Drive 3 hours to Cumberland, MD and park. Push off going west, upgrade for 23 miles to the Easten Continental Divide. Then 40 miles down grade to the Outflow Camping Area. And on and on, mile after mile until I regain the car sometime on Friday. I'll be off line until I get back. Much of the trip will have no cell service. Back to nature.

"The person with the fewest possessions is the freest." Paul Theroux

News when I get home.
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Old 08-18-19, 07:52 PM
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Prowler- have a great ride. I did that in early June, but credit-carded it. Good idea to avoid the C&O for now.
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Old 08-18-19, 10:52 PM
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Old 08-23-19, 06:46 PM
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I made it, all 300 miles in a bit over 4 days. Over 27 hours of spinning the tires. ~ 11 mph ave speed. I'm gonna rest all weekend.

I'll get photos and a story up soon. Have to get the snaps off my phone. Drinking beer right now.

THANKS for all the support.
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Old 08-23-19, 07:19 PM
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Yay!!!
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Old 08-27-19, 01:27 PM
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As mentioned in earlier posts, I’d been thinking about then planning, then postponing then training for then packing for this trip for almost a year. I kept thinking two things: a) I don’t know that I cannot do this and b) I’m not getting any younger. Who knows what next year brings. Somewhere along the way in my life I’d quit being immortal. I don’t know how that happened but that’s reality. So I needed to try this: the Great Allegheny Passage trail (GAP).

Fully planned, checklisted and packed, I set off at dawn on Monday the 19th for the 3.5 hour drive to Cumberland, MD. Very easy to locate the free trail parking on Howard St, under I68. I’d wondered about security for my car there but the County Tourism was recommending that to all the hiker/bikers and, as I approached the entrance a city police cruiser was exiting the lot. Somewhat reassuring.

I put the bike together and wobbled it over the curb and towards the trail, right at the C&O Canal path visitor center - the joint between that and the GAP. “Wobbled” because the machine weighed in at over 70 lbs. Bike, racks, camping and cycling gear, food and water. I’d weighted stuff to determine the bike and gear was around 57 lbs plus 13 lbs of food and water. Awkward at walking speeds but handled well once underway.



Mile 0 west bound

I set off heading west, upgrade. The first goal was 23 miles upgrade to the Eastern Continental Divide - the highest place on the GAP trail. Also the steepest section of the GAP though the signs say a maximum grade of only 1.5%. It was also my heaviest load so I set my gears and just plugged away - normally rolling between 9 and 10 mph. Get it over with. Two rail tunnels break up the trip, the longest (The Big Savage Tunnel) is about 2/3 mile long, straight as an arrow. There are ‘just good enough’ lights spaced along the way but one still gets a bit weird in there, even weird trying to hold a straight line. Even a bit shaky with a mob of other cyclists coming the other way.



Brush Tunnel. Mile 5. Easier than Big Savage
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Old 08-27-19, 01:32 PM
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Just beyond Big Savage is the Continental Divide and down grade for the next 70 miles. Technically its down grade all the way to Pittsburgh but you only really feel the grade to Connellsville. It feels flat after that. Beautiful warm weather and I completed another 40 miles then camped at the Outflow Campground (milepost 61). Nice Hiker/Biker section with shade and thick grass to pitch the tent. Lulled to sleep by the sound of the discharge from the flood control dam.

Up and away by 7:00am after pumping up the rear tire. Pretty quick I could tell that tube was not going to hold. At a cross road in the woods I saw an unoccupied log cabin with a nice porch. I rolled over to it and removed everything from the bike then the rear wheel. Changed the tube and resumed travel. That tube held for the rest of the trip, no idea why is leaked down. A few other interesting sights, mostly related to converted railroad bridges went by but otherwise it was endless miles of good 12Ft wide trail thru the woods. Another nice weather day. Out to milepost 122 I stopped at the Dravo Landing campground. I’d not known what to expect. “A cleared spot behind the old Dravo Cemetery”. Hmmmm. It turned out to be very nice. Well mown lawn under big shade trees. Two Adirondack Shelters. Very well done. I pitched the tent inside one of the two and visited with two guys from Akron, OH who were on about the same plan I was, but slower.



Seemingly endless miles of this


Their phones found weather predictions for rain all day Wednesday. Ugh. It did storm pretty well late evening after I’d settled in and stayed drippy. Between that and the occasional freight train passing on the other side of the Youghiogheny River, I did not sleep well that night. I’d planned for Wednesday to be a big, long miles day and trying that in the rain did not bring happy thoughts. Just suck it up and deal with it.



Some really neat converted viaducts and rail bridges
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Old 08-27-19, 01:36 PM
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I gave up trying to sleep around 5:00am and packed my things. Ate breakfast then set off again at 7:00am (rear tire doing just fine). “Wasted a perfectly good worry.” No rain and clear blue skies by around 10:00am. Reached the GAP western terminus around 9:45 for a photo op. Another GAP tripper was there so we took each others pictures. He was heading on west into Ohio. I was turning for home. Knocked around a bit then got back on the cranks. Yes, I know, but I’ve seen Pittsburgh. BTDT. The last 18 miles into Pittsburgh passed through pretty heavy industrial areas and rust belt and ever present freight trains and I wanted to get back into the woods. So I just did.



Made it to the west end. Convergence point of the three rivers. Former site of Three Rivers Stadium


Goal 1 = back to Dravo Landing. Did that but it was too early. Goal 2 = Cedar Creek campground. Did that but it was still too early. Goal 3 = Round Bottom campground. Did that, getting pretty tired but I had more time and Round Bottom has no water and was not well maintained. So Goal 4 = Connellsville, just another 10 miles. “Ell, anyone can do 10 miles. Just keep em turning.” Arrived about 5:00pm. An 85 mile day. Lovely campground. 5 shelters. Fresh water, mowed grass, quiet. One other traveler. I pitched in a shelter again and cooked my dinner. Clear sky, 3/4 moon, light breeze. Good forecast for Thursday and I only needed to do 45 miles. Life was good. Slept real well.



Free camping for trail users. Quiet cool and dry.

Thursday morning I “slept in” until 6:00am. Fed, packed and rolling about 8:00. Another very nice day but now I’m starting to feel the upgrade and fatigue from Wednesday’s efforts. More frequent breaks and shorter miles between. No worries, I had the time and “the weather glass”. Reached Rockwood, PA early afternoon and checked in at Husky Haven campground. Took a very long shower and felt great. Set up camp and relaxed. Cleaned the chain and FW to mitigate the clicking that had developed. 200 miles of packed screenings, sand, mud, leaves and sticks were taking a toll. No worries, only 43 miles to go then back into the car.
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Old 08-27-19, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Prowler
...


Brings back memories. Would love to go west, rather than east from there some day,
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Old 08-27-19, 01:41 PM
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But at 6:00pm the first rain shower went through. I finished my dinner in the tent. Had time between that shower and the next to button down everything for the night but had to retreat to my tent again by 7:00pm. Rained off an on all night and more freight trains. I did not sleep well at all. Light rain at dawn. “Well, I cannot just sit here. I’d better just see what happens.” Packed and rolling by 7:00am again. Light rain and wet trail.

It rained most of the way. Focus, focus focus on mile post 23, the GAP high point again. Running 10 - 11 mph, head down, poncho flattened against me. Mile posts passing ever so slowly. Took surprisingly few breaks. “I cannot believe how well my legs are doing after 250 miles (two 61 mile days, an 85 mile day and a 45 mile day). Yikes. Keep going. It will all be better after mile post 23.

And it was. Back through Big Savage then “kick out the jams”. I was pretty soon running between 14 and 17mph. Flying downhill, 21 miles to my car. Cold and wet and highly motivated. No stops, no breaks. Crank, crank, crank. Getting a bit warmer, lighter rain, dry spots. Crank, crank, crank. Finally there it is - mile post 1. I had to stop for that photo. 1:30pm I had everything stuffed back into my car and was rolling east. Tired, heater on high, tall mug of coffee and going home.


Over 250 of these mile posts were a big part of life for a few days. The last one.

I’d done it. One real big challenge for me. And I was still strong. The Schwinn Voyageur just sucked it up and spit it out. Dirty, wet, tired and full of sand and screenings. But not complaining. Would I do it again? Probably not. Too much. Would I do an overnight again. Yeah, probably but I think I really like good long day trips with good shelter and numerous options each night. Am I glad I did it - Yes!. If there is a club for this, I’m part of it. I’ll not forget this adventure, and I’m getting more forgetful.



1987 Schwinn Voyageur doing "Drowned Rat"
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Old 08-27-19, 05:20 PM
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What a great read! Thank you for that

I realized I was no longer immortal around age 52. Ever since, I've been trying to get back to that old feeling; stuff like what you just accomplished is a good way to try!

Congratulations on a successfully-reached goal.

DD
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Old 08-27-19, 05:27 PM
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Great read, thanks for the thread!
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Old 08-27-19, 06:38 PM
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Thank you for the kind words. Now a bit of trivia, for fun or posterity.

Duration on the trail: 10:30am Monday to 1:00pm Friday
Miles travelled - 304
Time turning the front wheel (that's where the magnet is) - 27 1/4 hours
Ave speed end to end 11.1 mph
Total cost for camping sites - $10. The free hiker/biker campsites provided by numerous towns and counties, businesses schools systems and trail councils is impressive, and growing.

Signage along the trail is excellent. Only in the last couple of miles prior to the point in P'burgh did GAP signage get sketchy. But I'd studied the maps and knew what to do.
The official GAP trail map is excellent. Checked that numerous times/day. Very helpful. www.GAPtrail.org
Access to potable water along the trail is very good. Top off your two bottles whenever you get a chance and know your consumption/mile. Plan ahead and pay attention and you'll be fine. No need to carry a filter.

The Voyageur rolled on original wheels. The rear had the original 40 spoke Wobler Super Champion rims. Nary a complaint. As true when I got home as when we left. That wheel did not mind the weight and rough conditions one bit. Neither did the Weinnman front rim.
Rolled on new Continental Ride/Tour tires. Each was 1lbs heavier than the Pasellas the bike normally wears but these Contis appear to be bullet proof. No issues changing that tube either. Off and on the rim just fine. I'm sure there are other excellent choices but I get these at employee pricing at the LBS so there ya are.

I've cleaned the Voyageur and returned it to day ride trim - removed all the touring racks, bags, pumps, tool bottles, etc. Its back to 28lbs. It sure did well with all that extra load.

I was thinking a bit ago: Is it now OK if I name the Voyageur Frodo?
What would that make me? Peregrin(e)?
Guess you know which town would be Mordor.
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Old 08-27-19, 07:38 PM
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I enjoyed this read. Congrats on your successful journey.
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Old 08-27-19, 07:38 PM
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Comgratulations! Welcome to The Club!
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Old 08-27-19, 08:40 PM
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A fine club to be a member of.
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Old 08-28-19, 04:09 AM
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Thanks for the write-up, hope to do something similar to this, sometime.
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Old 08-28-19, 09:49 AM
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Very enjoyable read, Prowler. I could relate to your moving goals. Went through alot of that myself.

Welcome to the club!
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Old 08-28-19, 10:21 AM
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Congrats OP and Chapeau on just doing it! Thanks for sharing your experience, that was a fun read.
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Old 08-28-19, 10:30 AM
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Fantastic ride and pics. Makes me yearn for reitrement (and the East Coast).

But I think if you name the bike Frodo, you have to be Gollum. Just don't bite off a spoke and fall into the River of Doom near Mordor
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Old 08-28-19, 11:31 AM
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Thanks for posting this - I really enjoyed it. Glad everything went well for you.
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Old 08-28-19, 04:23 PM
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That's quite a bit of time/miles per day on the bike each day for your first tour! Chapeau!

Now to plan for your next tour.
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