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Advice on "state-bagging" New England and mid-Atlantic states this summer

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Advice on "state-bagging" New England and mid-Atlantic states this summer

Old 04-18-17, 07:31 PM
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Advice on "state-bagging" New England and mid-Atlantic states this summer

I have a life-long goal of biking all 50 U.S. states and I have an opportunity to complete New England and the mid-Atlantic states this summer. I'll be starting in NH (no choice) and would like to visit NH, VT, RI, CT, NJ, PA, MD, VA, DE, and WV. I'm not a touring novice, but I'm not a polished expert either and I'm looking for ideas on:
  • Best route - especially places to see and places to avoid. I have just under 2 weeks available so I can't spend a *lot* of time off the bike. I'm also a little unsure of the climbing. I'm from the Midwest so hills are sometimes hard to find. I'm also hoping to avoid the larger cities though it seems that Philadelphia is unavoidable. Key point is that I don't have time to ride all the way back home so I'll be taking the train from somewhere back to Chicago.
  • Lodging - camping is good though I'm not into stealth camping. Hotels are OK if needed. Needed can mean that it's 100 degrees and I want A/C. Haven't taken advantage of warmshowers or similar but would consider it.
  • Attributes about the area that someone from the Midwest may not be aware of. I figure traffic and hills are two things that will be challenging.
Thanks,
Mark
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Old 04-18-17, 09:34 PM
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When you get to the Southwest, ride around the "Four Corners"; you can get 4 states in one day
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Old 04-18-17, 11:18 PM
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If you ride the C&O and GAP, you can hit VA, DC, MD, WV, and PA. 335 miles off-road. Catch the train to Chicago from Pittsburgh. Amtrak Capitol Limited. Not sure about the rest of your trip. Can probably add MA and NY to the list. A combo of ferries and roads will get you south along the coast.

Last edited by alan s; 04-18-17 at 11:21 PM.
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Old 04-19-17, 04:50 AM
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What constitutes bagging a state? Can it just be a mile after using other transport? Do all bag-points have to be connected by tour-route?
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Old 04-19-17, 06:15 AM
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Adventure Cycling's Atlantic Coast route will get you all of those states except DE, RI and WV. It skirts Philadelphia (Where I live) without going into the city itself. Maybe use that as a base and modify it. BTW...DE is somewhat of a pain unless you just want to dip into the northern end from PA and then come back out. Once you get further south you have to deal with getting across the Chesapeake Bay to MD.

If you really want to hit DE, you could ride from Philly to Cape May, NJ and take a nice ferry ride to Lewes, DE. There is a great state park there (Cape Henlopen) with camping. You would probably have to hit it during a weekday because I think the campground is usually booked months and months in advance, at least on the weekends. You can check the park's web site to see.

Just about everywhere in western MA is going to have hills, and some steep ones. NW CT is also very hilly. Last September I did a week tour from Brattleboro, VT to Philly that had some stiff climbing a couple of days. Hit VT, MA, CT, NY, NJ and PA.

Agree that Pittsburgh is a logical place to catch the train back to CHI. Carry-On bike service on the Capitol Limited will require a reservation.
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Old 04-19-17, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
If you really want to hit DE, you could ride from Philly to Cape May, NJ and take a nice ferry ride to Lewes, DE. There is a great state park there (Cape Henlopen) with camping. .
And there's a paved rail trail from Lewes to Rehoboth Beach where you will find the wonderful Dogfish Head Brew pub. Great area for biking.
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Old 04-19-17, 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by hfbill
And there's a paved rail trail from Lewes to Rehoboth Beach where you will find the wonderful Dogfish Head Brew pub. Great area for biking.
Yep. There is also a Dogfish in Lewes itself. I managed to score a campsite at the park last Easter weekend. The place was crowded, but not fully booked. Looked to book one for Easter weekend again this year and the place was booked solid well in advance. I suspect that is because last fall they installed electric hookups at the campground.
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Old 04-19-17, 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by madsen89
I have a life-long goal of biking all 50 U.S. states and I have an opportunity to complete New England and the mid-Atlantic states this summer. I'll be starting in NH (no choice) and would like to visit NH, VT, RI, CT, NJ, PA, MD, VA, DE, and WV. I'm not a touring novice, but I'm not a polished expert either and I'm looking for ideas on:
  • Best route - especially places to see and places to avoid. I have just under 2 weeks available so I can't spend a *lot* of time off the bike. I'm also a little unsure of the climbing. I'm from the Midwest so hills are sometimes hard to find. I'm also hoping to avoid the larger cities though it seems that Philadelphia is unavoidable. Key point is that I don't have time to ride all the way back home so I'll be taking the train from somewhere back to Chicago.
  • Lodging - camping is good though I'm not into stealth camping. Hotels are OK if needed. Needed can mean that it's 100 degrees and I want A/C. Haven't taken advantage of warmshowers or similar but would consider it.
  • Attributes about the area that someone from the Midwest may not be aware of. I figure traffic and hills are two things that will be challenging.
Thanks,
Mark
For what you want to do there is probably not "best" route. You are going to be wiggling all over the place to get to Rhode Island and Connecticut...don't know why you aren't trying to get Massachusetts as well but it's your tour Here's a rough route of which I've ridden a fair bit. It's not the exact route I've ridden but it's close.

Philadelphia isn't that bad. I went around the north side of the city when I toured there but I should have just ridden through the middle of it. Same with Baltimore. I would probably skirt New York City and aim for Port Jervis. From there follow the Delaware Water Gap and try to find as much of the Delaware and Hudson Canal as you can find. It makes the riding much easier. You can follow the D&H almost all the way to Philadelphia. Make sure you go to Ringing Rocks in Buck County...but it's a steep climb! There's a nice little campground on top of the hill...of course...but get to it from the north side as the southern route is even steeper.

As for planning and mapping, don't try to plan out a route in turn-by-turn detail. Google Maps does a good job of routing you on a day-to-day basis as long as you don't follow it blindly. For example, the Delaware Water Gap route told me to go off into the hills on a 30 mile detour over a whole bunch of ridge lines instead of the relatively flat "Government Road" route along the river.

Another note...and this is coming from a Coloradoan who is born and breed at over 4000 feet in elevation and has spent a lifetime huffing and puffing up and down mountains...the mountains of the eastern US are mean! Like pitbull mean! Like rabid pitbull mean! They don't have altitude but they make up for that with attitude! Every damned place I have ridden there...and I've ridden in the Appalachias from Vermont to Arkansas...has been an endless stream of climbing. Easterners can't see the hills for the trees so they just draw a line and put a road along it.

Whatever gears you have on your bike now won't be enough. I don't think anyone makes gears that are low enough. My touring bike is geared with a 20 tooth front and a 34 tooth rear and that has been too high at times. I'm not sure that a 20/50 would be low enough for some of the stupid hills in the eastern US.

Finally, I'm not sure you can do all that you want in 2 weeks. The route I laid out above is almost 1000 miles. That's 70+ miles per day and, given the terrain, that's a lot of riding that doesn't leave much time for anything else. I call that kind of riding "too much de France and not enough Tour". Perhaps look at a smaller chunk. New Hampshire down across Massachusetts, clip the corner of Rhode Island, the corner of Connecticut and back up the New York side of Lake Champlaign, across the top into Vermont and back to New Hampshire. You might even be able to get Maine.

Take a look at "Poking the Poconos" in my signature line for details on my route from Port Jervis to Pittsburgh
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Old 04-19-17, 09:37 AM
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For the NE, I'd head to Boston, take the T ferry to Hingham. Ride to New London, take the ferry to Orient, ride to NYC, take the ferry to Sandy Hook. Ride to Cape May and take the ferry to Lewes. Ride to D.C. Need to hitch a ride across the Chesapeake. Then the C&O and GAP. It would be a long ride to complete in two weeks, but doable. You'd miss Philly completely.

Last edited by alan s; 04-19-17 at 09:42 AM. Reason: New London, not New Haven
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Old 04-19-17, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
...Another note...and this is coming from a Coloradoan who is born and breed at over 4000 feet in elevation and has spent a lifetime huffing and puffing up and down mountains...the mountains of the eastern US are mean! Like pitbull mean! Like rabid pitbull mean! They don't have altitude but they make up for that with attitude! Every damned place I have ridden there...and I've ridden in the Appalachias from Vermont to Arkansas...has been an endless stream of climbing. Easterners can't see the hills for the trees so they just draw a line and put a road along it.

Whatever gears you have on your bike now won't be enough. I don't think anyone makes gears that are low enough. My touring bike is geared with a 20 tooth front and a 34 tooth rear and that has been too high at times. I'm not sure that a 20/50 would be low enough for some of the stupid hills in the eastern US...
HAHA hilarious!

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Old 04-19-17, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
I would probably skirt New York City and aim for Port Jervis. From there follow the Delaware Water Gap and try to find as much of the Delaware and Hudson Canal as you can find. It makes the riding much easier. You can follow the D&H almost all the way to Philadelphia.
Not exactly. The D&H starts (heading south) in Kingston NY, to High Falls NY (where I live) and then bends to the south and parallels US RT 209 from High Falls NY to near Port Jervis NY. From there the D&H heads west to it's terminus in Honesdale PA which would be way out of your way if you're headed for Philly. However there is a different canal towpath that starts in Easton PA and looking at the map it appears you could take that most of the way from there to Philly. Maybe someone who's more familiar with that stretch could comment.

Originally Posted by cyccommute
As for planning and mapping, don't try to plan out a route in turn-by-turn detail. Google Maps does a good job of routing you on a day-to-day basis as long as you don't follow it blindly. For example, the Delaware Water Gap route told me to go off into the hills on a 30 mile detour over a whole bunch of ridge lines instead of the relatively flat "Government Road" route along the river.
Yep, you got that right! Take the government road (RT 209) from Milford PA to Delaware Water Gap. The New Jersey side (Old Mine Rd) is in terrible shape and very hilly. RT 209 through the DWG does not allow trucks (except for specially permitted local delivery), has a low speed limit and most of it has a reasonably wide shoulder. There are few services for 30 miles south of Milford thought. Milford is a wonderful little town. I always stop at Fretta's Deli for lunch and stock up on water etc. Also, in the town of Delaware Water Gap there's a legendary inn that has featured great live Jazz since the 40s, The Deer Head Inn. Nice rooms and dinners, and the owner is an avid bicycle tourer. I've never been much farther south than DWG, but I'm guessing PA 611, which roughly follows the Delaware River might be your best bet from DWG to Easton PA where you could either pick up the other canal path I mentioned earlier, or just continue on 611.

Enjoy!

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Old 04-19-17, 10:27 AM
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Pick up US4 in Whitehall, NY and head east to the stateline and then you are forced off onto VT4A as US4 goes limited access to Rutland. Follow 4A into Rutland and then head south to VT103 and take it all the way into NH. You will have a nice climb up and over the Green Mountains before you get to Ludlow, VT. You will drop into Claremont, NH and head east on NH11/103 on down to Concord. You'll go right by my house. Catch NH9 east out of Concord and take it to Durham where you can drop down NH108 to NH33 at the BIG traffic circle. Headed northeast on NH33 into Portsmouth and cross over into Kittery, ME on the Memorial Bridge, only route into ME, others are all limited accesss. You can go up to the traffic circle and turn around and head back down across the bridge and catch NH1A down along the NH seacoast on down into MA or you can go back over to NH108, probably the smarter route to avoid Boston, and start angling your way toward the MA/RI/CT border just east and north of Putnam, CT. I've ridden this whole route several times since I live right on the route. It's the shortest route to hook up the 6 New England states.

There's only two places in the US where you can hook 7 states in one day and your talking about both of them...New England + New York and then the mid Atlantic states.

The mid Atlantic states could be a bit more difficult. The ride down through the Delmarva Peninsula is quite nice and it will pick you off DE/MD/VA all in one swoop. Ride down DE side and back up the MD side of the peninsula. I did that two years ago on my trip and hit every county in the peninsula...not that hard to do.

Yeah, WV sets out there in no mans land though...way off the beaten path away from the rest of the states listed.
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Old 04-19-17, 10:35 AM
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AK and HI are going to be a challenge unless you are prepared to fly.
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Old 04-19-17, 12:23 PM
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No MA? Piffle. Best state ever. That aside, the bike paths go almost across the whole state of RI. Quite nice, did some last year. Pick your bridges carefully. Some allow pedaling, some not. Did East to West and then headed over to the Airline rail trail, sort of flat stone dust. Hills, Chose NH and VT carefully, LOTS of them. Spent hours in the 22-36 gearing. FYI.
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Old 04-19-17, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by hfbill
Not exactly. The D&H starts (heading south) in Kingston NY, to High Falls NY (where I live) and then bends to the south and parallels US RT 209 from High Falls NY to near Port Jervis NY. From there the D&H heads west to it's terminus in Honesdale PA which would be way out of your way if you're headed for Philly. However there is a different canal towpath that starts in Easton PA and looking at the map it appears you could take that most of the way from there to Philly. Maybe someone who's more familiar with that stretch could comment.
Whoops. It the D&L or Delaware Canal towpath (I see both names listed). I also picked it up in Eaton, PA which is a bit south of Stroudsburg. I followed it to Yardley and then struck west on the north side of Philadelphia. If I had to do it again, I would have stuck to the Delaware River rather than climb all those damned hills.
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Old 04-19-17, 01:34 PM
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OP, what about DC & ME? Secondly, are you willing to take public transport to avoid the least interesting or least enjoyable areas? As for your route, given your time constraint, I'd suggest you come up with a first draft for a route and then submit it here for comments. There are lots of good places to ride in nearly all of the states you mentioned, but you simply don't have the time to hit all of them in 2 weeks.
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Old 04-19-17, 03:21 PM
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You don't have to skip NYC. The Hudson River Greenway runs along the western shore of Manhattan and has no motor vehicles. The scenery is spectacular. You can ride legally and safely on the George Washington Bridge from NJ into NYC. Ride south on the Greenway. Then take a ferry or train from lower Manhattan back into NJ, though you should avoid the hellish roads from Jersey City to Newark, therefore a train is better than the ferry.
@hfbill, where are you? Our weekend house is on Mossy Brook Rd in High Falls.
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Old 04-19-17, 04:51 PM
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Thanks for all the great replies! I'll try to answer everything here.
  • Hawai'i is done. No idea when I'll make it to Alaska, but it would be fun to take a supported tour along the Alaska Hwy.
  • I'm not avoiding ME or MA, just that I have ridden in both so they are not on my must see list this time. Same goes for NY. Kind of hard to avoid MA and NY, though.
  • I don't have a whole lot of time so doing things like visiting Dogfish Head is not likely to happen. However, it is a very worthy destination. I'm sure there are plenty of great alternatives, though.
  • I have to start in NH. It will probably be either Lebanon/White River Jct., VT or North Conway.
  • Some have suggested that I post a first draft. In lieu of an actual map, I'll do my best to describe what I have so far. If I start out in North Conway, I'd either head to Lebanon and follow the Connecticut River south or go straight to Brattleboro. From there, I'd cut back into NH, go through Springfield and cut through the NW corner of RI. Then head across CT into NY and cross the Hudson at Poughkeepsie (someone suggested Kingston). From there I would go south to NJ and try to head to PA as flatly as possible. There I'd head south through Philadelphia, go around Wilmington, DE and cut across northern MD. At some point I'd dip down into VA and back up into WV. I'd take the train back to Chicago from Martinsburg or Harpers Ferry.
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Old 04-19-17, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
Whoops. It the D&L or Delaware Canal towpath (I see both names listed). I also picked it up in Eaton, PA which is a bit south of Stroudsburg. I followed it to Yardley and then struck west on the north side of Philadelphia. If I had to do it again, I would have stuck to the Delaware River rather than climb all those damned hills.
Always wise to stay close to the water if possible!
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Old 04-19-17, 05:18 PM
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Advice on "state-bagging" New England and mid-Atlantic states this summer
Originally Posted by madsen89
I have a life-long goal of biking all 50 U.S. states and I have an opportunity to complete New England and the mid-Atlantic states this summer. I'll be starting in NH (no choice) and would like to visit NH, VT, RI, CT, NJ, PA, MD, VA, DE, and WV
Originally Posted by cyccommute
...don't know why you aren't trying to get Massachusetts as well but it's your tour
Originally Posted by Leebo
No MA? Piffle. Best state ever.
Nice pick-up, @cyccommute, When I moved to Boston in 1977, I heard about two local cycling challenges. One was sponsored by the Charles River Wheelmen to ride through all six New England States on Memorial Day weekend, about three hundred miles.

The second, perhaps a local legend was to ride through all 50 cities and 301 towns of Massachusetts.

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 04-19-17 at 05:26 PM.
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Old 04-19-17, 07:51 PM
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Thanks for all the great replies! I'll try to answer everything here.
  • Hawai'i is done. No idea when I'll make it to Alaska, but it would be fun to take a supported tour along the Alaska Hwy.
  • I'm not avoiding ME or MA, just that I have ridden in both so they are not on my must see list this time. Same goes for NY. Kind of hard to avoid MA and NY, though.
  • I don't have a whole lot of time so doing things like visiting Dogfish Head is not likely to happen. However, it is a very worthy destination. I'm sure there are plenty of great alternatives, though.
  • I have to start in NH. It will probably be either Lebanon/White River Jct., VT or North Conway.
  • Some have suggested that I post a first draft. In lieu of an actual map, I'll do my best to describe what I have so far. If I start out in North Conway, I'd either head to Lebanon and follow the Connecticut River south or go straight to Brattleboro. From there, I'd cut back into NH, go through Worcester and cut through the NW corner of RI. Then head across CT into NY and cross the Hudson at Poughkeepsie (someone suggested Kingston). From there I would go south to NJ and try to head to PA as flatly as possible. There I'd head south through Philadelphia, go around Wilmington, DE and cut across northern MD. At some point I'd dip down into VA and back up into WV. I'd take the train back to Chicago from Martinsburg or Harpers Ferry.

Last edited by madsen89; 04-19-17 at 09:07 PM.
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Old 04-20-17, 06:42 AM
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I suggest that you stick to New England on this trip and bike in the mid-Atlantic states on a later trip. Given the extremely limited amount of time you have, I don't see you being able to put together an enjoyable route connecting the 10 states you cited. If you were willing to use some public transport, you could enjoy a somewhat better route.
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Old 04-20-17, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by madsen89
and cut through the NW corner of RI. Then head across CT into NY and cross the Hudson at Poughkeepsie (someone suggested Kingston). From there I would go south to NJ and try to head to PA as flatly as possible. There I'd head south through Philadelphia, go around Wilmington, DE and cut across northern MD.

Enjoy those NW CT hills. If you stick with the above, I highly recommend you purchase the appropriate section of ACA's Atlantic Coast route. It goes through NW CT and then to Poughkeepsie. From there, is crosses the Hudson via the cool bike/ped bridge (a former railroad bridge). It then hits New Paltz, NY. From there, it passes through a beautiful valley with views of the Shawangunk Mts. before climbing up to Otisville, NY and then descending to U.S. 209, which takes you into Port Jervis, NY. It then turns south through the NJ side of the wonderful Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Worthington State Forest (great riverside campground there). Totally delightful riding that should not be missed, and there are only two challenging climbs. They are relatively short (~ 1 mile each) but have some steep pitches. You may even see a bear.


Next, it crosses the Delaware River via a pedestrian walkway along an I-80 bridge to Delaware Water Gap, PA then follows the river all the way down to Lambertville, NJ. This is a very nice stretch, and it's not that hilly. From Frenchtown, NJ south to Lambertville you can take the D&R Feeder Canal Path. It's almost completely shaded, which is nice when it's hot out.


You cross the river again from L'ville into New Hope and heads to the Philly area. There is a Philly spur that take you into town almost entire via trails.


There is a decent amount of camping on or close to the route.


Here is the portion of my September route from NW CT to Port Jervis following the ACA route:


https://ridewithgps.com/routes/15040868


The only thing I did differently from the above is that west of the Hudson crossing I stayed on the trail until it ended at Tony William Town Park and then got back on route via S. Riverside Rd. Also, I went off route north in Poughkeepsie for a few miles to camp at Mills Norrie State Park after grabbing groceries in town. The campground where the above route starts is a giant, expensive "resort", but they are really nice to cyclists, charging them only $20/night, which is cheap for camping in that neck of the wood.


Let me know if you want more details or camping, etc.
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Old 04-20-17, 07:31 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
If you really want to hit DE, you could ride from Philly to Cape May, NJ and take a nice ferry ride to Lewes, DE.
Another kinda cool, often overlooked option is to take the ferry that goes from Fort Mott State Park in northwest NJ (right on the Delaware River), across the Delaware River to Delaware City, DE. There is a small island in the middle that the ferry stops at with a state park/old restored fort. See details at Schedule and Fares

From Delaware City there is a really nice, new, paved bike trail along the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal that takes you to Chesapeake City, Md. From there you can scoot north and pick up the ACA route, or make your own route into DC. Then jump on the C&O/GAP to Pittsburgh and the train home.
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Old 04-21-17, 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by axolotl
I suggest that you stick to New England on this trip and bike in the mid-Atlantic states on a later trip. Given the extremely limited amount of time you have, I don't see you being able to put together an enjoyable route connecting the 10 states you cited. If you were willing to use some public transport, you could enjoy a somewhat better route.
I think I agree with you. After carefully considering the replies, I've decided to skip DE, MD, VA, and WV this trip and spend a bit more time in the others. So, at this point the general idea is to make use of both the ACA Northern Tier route and the Atlantic Coast route to complete the trip. I'd start in Conway, NH following the Northern Tier to VT where I'll head south along the Connecticut River then work my way over to Groton, MA to pick up the Atlantic Coast route and follow that to Port Jervis, NY. Since the Pennsylvanian train route still requires boxing, I'll head north to Syracuse (or Utica or Rochester, or whatever) and hop on the train there.

Thanks for all the great ideas. I've saved them away for the next time I'm in the region.
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