Summer Vacation 2014 – Midlife Crisis Edition!

Last week was awesome – easily the best vacation I have ever taken. Instead of hitting the beach, visiting some theme park, or touring one of the many normal “vacation destinations” that tend to be particularly overpriced and overcrowded, my brother, Tom, and I decided to do something completely different. We opted to spend a week pedaling our bikes 346 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

Embarking from Millvale on Monday, we arrived in Georgetown on Friday. We rode the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), and Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath during our journey. We saw some of the most breathtaking scenery as we traversed trestles and viaducts, made our way through dark and musty tunnels, and climbed up and over the Eastern Continental Divide. Starting at 720 feet above sea level in Pittsburgh, we steadily rose (especially during day two) to the peak at 2,392 feet, before heading “downhill” for the rest of our journey.

The Great Allegheny Passage was an awesome ride featuring a fairly smooth surface and lots of interesting little towns and scenic stops along its 150 miles. The C&O was a bit of a different story. Huge ruts and potholes, washed out sections of the trail, downed trees and branches, and tons of mud and water made for a much-more challenging 185 miles segment. While the Passage made it easy to look around as we pedaled our way to the Divide, the Towpath required us to pay closer attention to the trail and less to our surroundings.

Throughout the journey we met some great people who, like us, decided to spend a few days out in the wilderness. We also met some Pgh-DC trail veterans who offered great advice. A special shout-out to the older gentleman we met near the end of the GAP who warned us that there was absolutely nowhere to stop for food along the C&O. His heads-up gave us a chance to prepare for the final three days of our adventure.

Shout-outs also need to go to Sherry at the Trails Inn in Frostburg for giving us the best and coldest beer of our lives upon our arrival, and for making sure we had breakfast and lunch the day of our departure. You completely rock. Then there was Susan at the Riverrun Bed & Breakfast in Hancock. Thanks for allowing us to take over your washer and dryer. Clean clothes made for a much-better end to our journey! Mike and Cindy… thanks for picking us up in Georgetown, providing two killer meals at your place, and offering us a comfortable bed for the night. Mary, you get a shout-out for simply putting up with Tom each and every day. Thanks for meeting us at the other end. Last, but certainly not least, thanks to Doug at Bikes Unlimited in Lynchburg for making sure my bike had what it needed prior to the trip and for giving it an after-excursion tune-up.

To those thinking of making the trip, definitely do it and ride – a lot – as you prepare! And, whenever possible, weigh down your bike so you get a better feel for how the bike handles when the panniers are loaded with clothes and supplies. The difference in handling due to the extra weight on my bike was definitely the biggest adjustment I needed to make.

As I said before, it was an awesome trip. The experience of pedaling through national forests and along rail lines and canal towpaths that are seen by so few couldn’t be beat. Being able to spend a week with my brother (the longest time that we have been together since we lived under the same roof as kids) was pretty cool also. We had an awesome time (especially on the nights I paid for dinner!!!).

Now that this journey is over, it’s time to regroup and see what possible rail-trail adventures we might tackle next. We have an entire winter to plan…

Trip details for those interested:

  • Day One – Millvale to Ohiopyle, PA (80 miles)
  • Day Two – Ohiopyle, PA to Frostburg, MD (65 miles)
  • Day Three – Frostburg, MD to Hancock, MD (76 miles)
  • Day Four – Hancock, MD to Harpers Ferry, WV (64 miles)
  • Day Five – Harpers Ferry, WV to Georgetown (61 miles)