Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2013 Bike Trips: Erie Canal and DC to Pittsburgh

So, after some discussion and deliberation, I've decided to go forth and do both a DC to Pittsburgh Bike Trip as well as a new Erie Canal Bike Trip this year.  The Erie Canal will go from 25 June to 1 July, while the DC to Pittsburgh will be from 5 to 10 July.  The posts below describe both trips in greater detail.

Comments about the Erie Canal Bike Trip: We live in Rochester now, so this makes a bit more logistical sense.  The Erie Canal Bike Trip is about the same length as the DC to Pittsburgh trip.  The trail is only 75% complete, so there is some riding on roads.  The area is more developed, though, meaning that trail/road surfaces are better and you are generally not "in the woods".  Also, as I have only biked this once, this trip will have a more flexible schedule than the DC to Pittsburgh trip.

Comments about the DC to Pittsburgh Bike Trip: I've scheduled this trip around the 4th of July on purpose.  As many of you know, I need to be in DC every year on 3 July evening to help operate The Traverse.  This scheduling also allows folks from out of town to come to DC early to join me on The Traverse (or just watch 4th of July fireworks) before the bike trip starts on 5 July afternoon.

2013 Erie Canal Bike Trip Transportation Options

For the Eric Canal Bike Trip, I am aware that people may come from lots of different locations (Pittsburgh, New England, DC, and Rochester being the most likely spots), having different transportation needs.  Luckily, there are lots of transport options available to us.

Most importantly, there is an actually good Amtrak line that runs the whole length of our trip, from Niagara Falls to Albany, with stops in all the cities along the way.  They have several trains a day in either direction, at reasonable times of day.  With bike, you have to take the pedals off and put it in a box, but most people should only need to do this once (at the start or end of the trip).  There is also the option of renting a car one-way (since there are sizable cities on either end - Buffalo and Albany).

For Pittsburgh folks, I expect the easiest thing to do is to drive to Buffalo (or maybe Rochester), park the car, and take the train to Albany.  When you eventually bike back to Buffalo/Rochester, you are at your car. For Rochester people, you can just take the train to Albany on the first day, then bike back.  Getting from Buffalo back to Rochester should be easy - either have someone pick you up or just bike back in one additional day (this is my plan right now).  For NE/DC folks, you could get a train to Albany or drive there.  Either way, you can take the train back there at the end of the trip, then either hop in your car or get another train to your final destination.

In Troy, NY, the meet-up home base will be at my sister's place downtown.  She is currently scoping out places that people could park their car for the week (if you want to do that).  Troy is a short ride on a bike trial (5 miles) from the Albany Train Station.

In Niagara Falls, we will arrive at mid-day at the end of the trip.  This allows for several options: hang around the NF area (there are lots of hotels and camping in the immediate area), go immediately home (the train station is not far (5 miles?) from the falls, or bike back towards Rochester.  Note: if you want to go to the Canadian side (and you probably do), get your passport ready (Also, passing customs on a bike is lots of fun).

2013 Erie Canal Bike Trip Schedule

The Erie Canal Bike Trip is less structured than the DC to Pittsburgh one, so what you see below should be considered approximate.  The spots below all have camping, which is actually harder to find in this area than motels.  Motel bikers will have no problem finding nearby lodging (and may be able to spread the miles a bit better).

The approximate route: https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=NY-7+W&daddr=Robert+Moses+Pkwy&hl=en&ll=42.88804,-77.041626&spn=1.752744,4.22699&sll=42.928274,-78.401184&sspn=1.751601,4.22699&geocode=FfYojAIddaCb-w%3BFf9qkQIdgJNJ-w&dirflg=b&mra=ltm&t=m&z=9&lci=bike

Tues, 25 June - (27 miles) Meet in Troy, NY (just outside of Albany) in the afternoon.  Bike to Arrowhead Marina and RV park

Wed, 26 June - (44 miles) to St. Johnsville (through Schenectady)

Thurs, 27 June - (64 miles) to Verona Beach State Park (past Utica this day)

Fri, 28 June - (67 miles) to Oak Orchard Marina / Hejamada (through Syracuse)

Sat, 29 June - (65 miles) to Rochester (our house)

Sun, 30 June - (63 miles) to Niagara County Camping Resort

Mon, 1 July - (30 miles) to Niagara Falls (and then wherever you want to go from there)

DC to Pittsburgh Bike Trip 2013

Time for the 7th annual DC to Pittsburgh Bike Trip. This trip consists of the 3 1/2 day bike trip up the C&O Canal Towpath trail (183 miles) from DC to Cumberland, as well as the additional 150 miles from Cumberland to Pittsburgh. Thus, people can do the whole trip, or just the portions that they are interested in. The plan is to leave DC on Fri, 5 July July afternoon (meet up around 3:30PM at Chain Bridge), with the Pittsburgh people coming in by convoy Friday morning (or earlier if you want to do The Traverse/DC fireworks). Leaving DC, we will do about 30 miles on Friday, about 60 miles (each) on Sat and Sun, and the remaining 40 miles of the Canal on Monday. From Cumberland, anyone heading back to DC will catch a ride (pre-arranged) back to DC, so that they will be home at a reasonable time for work the next day. Anyone heading further on towards Pittsburgh will continue for another 2.5 days (60 miles/day average) and get in on Wednesday night.  The next few posts (scroll down) have more details about the trip.

I have biked the canal 12 times, and it is a delightful bike trip. The path is level (except for 10 ft rises at each lock) and is packed dirt/gravel. You are in the woods pretty much the whole time, which is nice, but there are small towns every 30 miles or so where you can eat or restock. The Canal is a National Historical Park, so it is well maintained and there are free hiker/biker campsites (clearing with well water pump, porta-potty, picnic table, and fire pit) every 10 miles or so. Additionally, there are many interesting natural/historical sites along the canal that make for a fun break from biking.

I've only done the GAP 7 times, but this section is also great - the trail is smoother and has more towns than the Canal, but is still in the woods. The GAP also features the "easiest" 2000 ft climb you will ever do, a number of tunnels, the Mason-Dixon line, and the Eastern Continental Divide.

If you are interested in bike touring, this makes a great introduction.

As much as I hate to say it, I plan to use Facebook to keep track of who is coming, so please find the bike trip event on Facebook (I will be sending a link to everyone I can think to) and join the event.  If you don't get an invite, email me.

Still curious? Here are some awesome pictures from the 2010 trip:


And here is a short summary video of the 2009 trip:

2013 DC to Pittsburgh Schedule

This is the approximate schedule that we have done many times (and it has worked pretty well) and will try to follow once again. The Canal milemarkers for various stops are given in (parentheses). There are many restaurants, but people will still need to bring some of their own food (dinner the first night and 2 breakfasts). A bunch of granola bars (or whatever) will do the job for these meals, if you can stand eating a bunch of them.

Day 1 - Friday, 5 July (dinner on trail)
Leave from Key park (or so) around 3:30PM
(15) Great Falls
(21) Camp here

Day 2 - Saturday, 6 July (breakfast+ on trail)
(55) Brunswick (lunch)
(60) Harpers Ferry (ice cream, snacks)
(72) Shepardstown (dinner)
(79) Camp here

Day 3 - Sunday, 7 July
(84.4) Detour to Williamsport
(100) Williamsport (breakfast)
(112) Ft. Frederick
(~114) Detour onto WMRT
(124) Hancock (lunch)
(141) Little Orleans (dinner)
(144.5) Camp here

Day 4 - Monday, 8 July (breakfast+ on trail)
(156) Paw Paw tunnel
(184) Cumberland (lunch) - DC people get a ride back from here
(GAP 16) Frostburg (dinner) - Camp here

Day 5 - Tuesday, 9 July
(GAP 32) Meyersdale (breakfast)
(GAP 63) Confluence (lunch)
(GAP 74) Ohiopyle (dinner)
(GAP 75) Camp at Ohiopyle

Day 6 - Wednesday, 10 July
(GAP 91) Connelsville (breakfast)
(GAP 116) West Newton (lunch)
(GAP 135) McKeesport
(GAP 150) Pittsburgh (dinner)

People starting in Pittsburgh can organize transportation to DC on Friday morning: you will probably want to do the same thing we did last year (rent a one-way car for transporting people and a one-way truck rental for transporting bikes). DC folks can also arrange a ride from Cumberland back to DC on Monday afternoon to take DC people and their bikes back.