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GAP ride logistics with Amtrak

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GAP ride logistics with Amtrak

Old 02-18-20, 03:37 PM
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pennpaul
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GAP ride logistics with Amtrak

A buddy and I are planning to take the Amtrak from DC to Pittsburgh to ride the GAP and C&O. However, the Amtrak gets in at a ridiculously late hour (after an already long train ride) in Pittsburgh so most likely we'd have to get a hotel room nearby and start in the morning. That's probably $300 right there for the hotel room and 2 train tickets.

Alternatively, I could do a one way car rental (a pickup is available for $125 one way) from DC to Pittsburgh and we'd be in Pittsburgh in 5 hours and could conceivably start riding by noon.

Sitting on a train for that long seems a lot more aggravating than driving a car for 5 (and I could split that with my buddy).

Anyway, if you've done this before, did you end up driving or doing the Amtrak thing?
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Old 02-18-20, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by pennpaul View Post
Alternatively, I could do a one way car rental (a pickup is available for $125 one way) from DC to Pittsburgh and we'd be in Pittsburgh in 5 hours and could conceivably start riding by noon.
By the time you're transporting two people with bikes, the rental starts to make a lot of sense... just watch out for things like opening hours if that rate doesn't include picking it up the night before.

I'd (only half-jokingly) say post when you're thinking of doing it, but for me getting to DC would consume much of the morning... so if I do it I'm resigned to an overnight at Pittsburgh.
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Old 02-18-20, 08:15 PM
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Also account for the time spent returning the rental, than riding from that location (airport ?) to the trail.

But agree that rental car is the beat option time wise.
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Old 02-18-20, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by pennpaul View Post
A buddy and I are planning to take the Amtrak from DC to Pittsburgh to ride the GAP and C&O. However, the Amtrak gets in at a ridiculously late hour (after an already long train ride) in Pittsburgh so most likely we'd have to get a hotel room nearby and start in the morning. That's probably $300 right there for the hotel room and 2 train tickets.

Alternatively, I could do a one way car rental (a pickup is available for $125 one way) from DC to Pittsburgh and we'd be in Pittsburgh in 5 hours and could conceivably start riding by noon.

Sitting on a train for that long seems a lot more aggravating than driving a car for 5 (and I could split that with my buddy).

Anyway, if you've done this before, did you end up driving or doing the Amtrak thing?
Well, I haven't done the GAP/C&O but I researched it for several years. Four of us were going to one-way rent a cargo van and drive to Pittsburg, and this was before Amtrak added bike options on this route. But a couple I know did the Amtrak option last year and they loved it. The train station is smack downtown near Three Rivers Stadium, and you're pretty close to bike routes that criss-cross over the rivers. And yeah, it sucks that the only train option puts you there close to midnight. The couple I know stayed at a hotel close to the train station, but it's a short ride to the cool part of town to stay overnight. There are probably options to return rental cars closer to the actual start of the GAP, but I think going through downtown Pittsburg on bikes and crossing one of the rivers three times on a dedicated bike path would be extremely cool.

I've done the Katy trail in Missouri twice. Both times we drove to St. Louis, then got on a train with our bikes and headed west, then pedaled the trail back to St. Louis. It's a great feeling to de-board the train with your bike, knowing that's your way to get home. And having a couple of beers on the train ride as well. I absolutely love riding in trains, I did it a lot in Europe. I think it's a lot less stressful than driving. You can get up, walk around, enjoy the scenery. Trains are rarely off schedule, and you don't have the airport hassles.
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Old 02-20-20, 04:56 AM
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When looking into this, I thought I found a good alternative: there is a Megabus from DC to Pittsburgh that is crazy cheap and gets in to Pittsburgh at 4pm - enough time to get out of the city to a cheaper place to stay.

At first glance, it looked like you could put a bike on the bus but when you drill down they have a stricter bag size limit than the airlines. If you had one of those collapsible bikes, it might work but I don't think any standard bike frame even disassembled could fit in their 62 inch overall dimension.

Greyhound had the same restrictions but did have some kind of excess baggage shipping option that I think was about $45 in addition to the $30 bus fare but the bike wouldn't necessarily be on the same bus with you!

I just did bike on Amtrak from Jacksonville FL back to Washington DC and it worked out really well for that long trip, but the Capitol Limited schedule for Pittsburgh seems aimed at guaranteeing business for the expensive hotels nearby! The one way car rental seems like the way to go.

Last edited by jpescatore; 02-20-20 at 05:07 AM.
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Old 02-20-20, 06:43 AM
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Look into Avis. It has a lot of -one-way rentals. When I started a cross-PA tour in Pittsburgh I rented a car and drove from Philly. There is an Avis return place located near U. Pitt. which means not having to drop off at the airport. It's an auto repair place, so it opens early. The rate was the same regardless of the drop off location. From there it's all flat or down hill to the Point to start the GAP. Just note that you will have to ride a ways on the GAP to get to the first camping location (Dravo Cemetery, IIRC), and the mileage to Boston is relatively slow, but if you start early enough there should be plenty of time.

Work out timing. With your imagined schedule you would have to pick up the car before 7 a.m. to start riding by noon. Make sure you can get the car that early.
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Old 02-21-20, 05:30 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
...... note that you will have to ride a ways on the GAP to get to the first camping location (Dravo Cemetery, IIRC), and the mileage to Boston is relatively slow, but if you start early enough there should be plenty of time.
I rode the GAP in August. I parked in Cumberland and cycled west, then back. Very nice and no trains to deal with. As to the comment above: the camping area near Dravo Cemetery was a very pleasant surprise. Beautiful large lawn, shade trees, good water, two shelters. Excellent. From mile zero to Dravo is only 25 miles and I found that easy. Mostly paved out to Boston, Pa. Easy.

Actually, I pushed off from Dravo, going west, on my 87 Schwinn Voyageur (70lbs fully loaded) at 7:00am. Ate a carb bar at mile zero around 9:00. Back to Dravo then on to Connelsville to camp that night. Great day. Excellent trail surfaces.

BTW: when you see a sign that says "fill water bottles here. No water at next area" do just that. On occasion the water sources shown on the map are inoperative. The folks that take care of the trail are great about signage. I topped my water whenever I could, carried two bottles and I was just fine. And I drink a lot of water.
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Old 02-21-20, 05:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Prowler View Post
I rode the GAP in August. I parked in Cumberland and cycled west, then back. Very nice and no trains to deal with.
Did the same thing in September. The parking in Cumberland is really convenient.
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Old 02-22-20, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by jpescatore View Post
When looking into this, I thought I found a good alternative: there is a Megabus from DC to Pittsburgh that is crazy cheap and gets in to Pittsburgh at 4pm - enough time to get out of the city to a cheaper place to stay.

At first glance, it looked like you could put a bike on the bus but when you drill down they have a stricter bag size limit than the airlines. If you had one of those collapsible bikes, it might work but I don't think any standard bike frame even disassembled could fit in their 62 inch overall dimension.
Ironically their competitor Bolt does allow assembled bikes but only goes to a smaller collection of the largest cities.

That said busses can be a more draining experience than trains. Doing NYC<>Philly for a day ride on the Schuylkill was substantially faster and cheaper than the train, but even after only a sixty mile ride my legs were substantially unhappy about staying bent for what proved a short two hours on the bus - was lucky that not having a seatmate meant I could sit sort of diagonally. I'm probably a bit spoiled by Metro North commuter trains where the bike area or seats near it tend to be spacious, eg the facing party seats. The vertical backs on the NJT jumpseats aren't great for napping. And getting up and moving around is more of an option on a train.

This thread is more about getting to the ride start, but another caution for post-ride public transit is inability to customize temperature. A/C in summer can be oppressive and heat in winter inconsistent. My body really shuts down post ride, even after learning to bring dry clothes to change to in the restroom I typically end up pulling out and putting on all of the warmth layers I've brought - in fact this time of year, most of the volume of what I'm carrying on rides is just for the train ride home (though of course it would be useful if a ride came to an unplanned halt, too).

There was some ride I was looking at with an Amtrak option that got in at 5 am but can't remember which destination or find it again...

Last edited by UniChris; 02-22-20 at 03:57 PM.
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Old 02-22-20, 06:07 PM
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I haven't done this ride but I have rented a lot of cars and tried planning the logistics for many more trips. There can be a additional drop fee that may not be mentioned up front. I don't know if all companies do it but in the past if I didn't return the vehicle where it was rented there was a fee. I only did it once and paid $25 or $50. But I've tried planning trips and seen it as high as $250 but that was across the country. Just food for thought.
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Old 02-23-20, 04:38 PM
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I just reserved an F150 crew cab from Enterprise at Reagan Airport--$125 for everything one way with no drop fees. The pickup was more money initially but the other offerings (sedans, minivans, SUVs) were sometimes less and sometimes more initially but they all had $86 drop fees. I guess they want these pickups moved to Pittsburgh. I'm happy to oblige! I can pick up the night before, pick up my friend in the morning, and drop it off at the Enterprise office in downtown Pittsburgh next to the Amtrak train station where the ride would start anyway.

As long as Enterprise has a pickup waiting for me on the day I reserved, that part of the trip is covered.
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Old 02-25-20, 05:22 AM
  #12  
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I did the same thing with Enterprise in FL last month, worked out great - they even gave me a ride to the Amtrak station in Jacksonville, which was only a 5 mile ride away but this saved me having to change clothes in the Amtrak men's room!

The pickup truck was a gas hog, though - you'll probably burn more than one tank, the "buy the first tank from us" might be the way to go if the offer is cheap enough.
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Old 03-03-20, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by pennpaul View Post
I just reserved an F150 crew cab from Enterprise at Reagan Airport--$125 for everything one way with no drop fees. The pickup was more money initially but the other offerings (sedans, minivans, SUVs) were sometimes less and sometimes more initially but they all had $86 drop fees. I guess they want these pickups moved to Pittsburgh. I'm happy to oblige! I can pick up the night before, pick up my friend in the morning, and drop it off at the Enterprise office in downtown Pittsburgh next to the Amtrak train station where the ride would start anyway.

As long as Enterprise has a pickup waiting for me on the day I reserved, that part of the trip is covered.
You got a good deal.

And it is sometimes odd how things are priced. I just checked on rates for a possible local-ish one way trip I like to take over a long weekend. The economy car was $5 more expensive than an elite SUV and $10 more than a standard SUV. Go figure. And the hybrid they must want to keep local because it was $500 for 24hr. compared to $156 for the economy.

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Old 11-08-20, 07:24 AM
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Not sure where you're driving from, but you can coordinate arrive to Pittsburgh to arrive and start biking then coordinate your arrival in DC so you can use the time on the train to get some sleep so when you get back to Pittsburgh, at almost midnight, you're ready to just drive home. You could always stop off at a truck stop along the way and grab a quick shower.
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Old 11-08-20, 08:26 PM
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I finished my ride but not how I originally planned. We scrapped the group ride idea back in March or April, and under the guise of a family vacation, my wife and kids drove me to Pittsburgh before the July 4 weekend. I rode to Ohiopyle on Day 1 where they picked me up and we stayed in a nearby hotel. Then on day 2 they dropped me off at Ohiopyle and I met them at the hotel in Cumberland that afternoon. We drove home the next day.

I was living in Arlington, VA at the time and had ridden the C&O from DC to White's Ferry while there. In late July we moved up near Frederick, MD where I rode White's Ferry to Harper's Ferry. As one last hurrah before we moved again, my wife let me have two days to finish the C&O.

I tried to reserve a spot on Amtrak but could not find anything that coincided with the day I needed. I ended up doing a one way rental to Cumberland which was unreasonably high. Anyway, on the first day I rode to Hancock and stayed at the Hancock Motel. The next day my family met me in Harper's Ferry and we drove home.

Some day I will do it right and ride the whole tour as a single trip. Even spread across several different trips, though, I had an amazing time out on the bike--my sit bones, not so much.

Paul

Last edited by pennpaul; 11-08-20 at 08:32 PM.
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Old 11-29-20, 09:48 PM
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Amtrak doesn't make it easy

Having ridden the GAP many times, I still haven't had the time or worked out the logistics for a Pittsburgh to D.C. trip. The earlier suggestions of one way rental vehicles make the most sense to me. I've mainly done the section from Connellsville to Cumberland on a tandem with my wife. I look forward to reading future posts of other riders experiences.
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Old 01-05-21, 07:53 AM
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I planned to ride the GAP/C&O, Pittsburg > DC this year but the pandemic put the kibosh on those plans. The train didn't seen like a good option (getting in late in the evening) and that left a one-way rental to Pittsburg. Good to see others have the same thinking. Hopefully, I'll be able to do the ride this year.
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Old 02-15-21, 12:18 PM
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This is a very helpful thread

I'm planning on doing the ride this year myself and had no idea where to start on logistics, but I learned a ton from reading through these posts. Incredibly helpful info and ideas here. Thanks a bunch guys!
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Old 02-15-21, 02:41 PM
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FYI...If you drive to PGH using the PA Turnpike bring your EZ Pass transponder. Tolls are pretty much double if you donít. Valley Forge to the exit for PGH is about $31 with it. $64 without it.
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Old 04-01-22, 11:59 AM
  #20  
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Pittsburgh area resident and frequent attended of BikePGH events here; let me offer my perspective. The train station is on Grant Street downtown and pretty far from the point and North Shore where the stadiums are. There is a bike lane along Penn Ave that will lead you past the Strip District and Convention Center through the cultural district and to the Wyndham Grand Hotel which is adjacent to Point State Park (PSP) where the GAP trail originates.

If you're renting a car, then I'd suggest not going with Hertz because their dropoff point appears to be in the Hill District near PPG (Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey) Arena. I don't know of any bike routes in that area. Enterprise is a little better because it's off Penn Ave near the train station/Strip District and the Hampton Inn but it's still pretty far from PSP. Otherwise, Avis and Budget are adjacent to the Wyndham Grand.

As an alternative, if you're flying in (or driving to the airport to drop off a rental) then there's the Marriot at the Airport. There's an access trail to the Montour Trail in the perimeter of the extended parking lot. The Montour Trail at that point is a 39 mile ride through the rural and suburban areas west and south of the metro area until it meets up with the GAP trail in McKeesport (GAP trail mile 16.) I happen to live halfway along that route - but sorry we don't run a bed and breakfast! There aren't many hike a bike sections but you do have to share the road in a couple of places, particularly in Clairton and Glassport. Apart from that, you're spared a lot of the noise and hubbub of center city - though in Clairton you get to experience the stench of the US Steel Clairton Works plant.

Anyway, I've been wanting to do the GAP trail at some point. My wife, younger son and I have ridden various sections of the GAP, Montour and Panhandle Trails (which is a spur that leads west to the West Virginia panhandle town of Weirton)along with various group rides in Western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. There are lots of little towns all along with many places to eat. We typically only do about 20-30 mile stretches but haven't made the full trip. We're just not geared up for it. Camping's not our thing.
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Old 04-03-22, 06:45 AM
  #21  
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The Amtrak station is about 1.2 easy miles to the Point. In 2020 I stayed in a hotel on Smallman, about 2 blocks from the station. Rode to the Point early the next morning, much of the way on bike lanes. It was a Saturday. Almost no traffic. Easier than my 1.58 mile commute to work at home.
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Old 04-08-22, 11:29 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
The Amtrak station is about 1.2 easy miles to the Point. In 2020 I stayed in a hotel on Smallman, about 2 blocks from the station. Rode to the Point early the next morning, much of the way on bike lanes. It was a Saturday. Almost no traffic. Easier than my 1.58 mile commute to work at home.
No only is it a short and easy ride, you can take advantage of either the segregated bike lane on Penn Avenue:


or jump onto the Strip District Trail and ride along the Allegheny River to Point State Park.
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Old 04-08-22, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Altair 4 View Post
No only is it a short and easy ride, you can take advantage of either the segregated bike lane on Penn Avenue:


or jump onto the Strip District Trail and ride along the Allegheny River to Point State Park.
I took the first option because I was not aware of the second unit now. Thanks. Iíll keep it in mind if thereís a next time.

The first time doing the gap I returned my rental up near Centre St. on the north side of Oakland (I lived near there when I went to Pitt Law) and rode down 5th Ave. to The Point. Even that wasnít bad on a Saturday morning. And I got to see an old haunt. Chiefís.
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