I am finally getting serious about the “riding to Cleveland” thing. I have been jonesin’ about this ride starting in early in 2012 and even more after riding the C&O canal with friends in 2012 and 2013 thinking this kind of off road bike touring would be a lot of fun. Plus there are some trail additions that make this a breeze such as the filling the GAPs all the way into Pittsburgh and the fact that Amtrak finally has the roll on/roll off bike service on the Capital Limited which runs right through Downtown Cleveland to DC which will make the return logistics much easier.
Using the great routing site Ride With GPS I’ve refined the route west of Pittsburgh. I can’t embed an interactive version here, but click through to see the entire route:
The full route is 530 miles and I have been considering how to break it up into stages. I had originally considered trying to do it in less than a week which would mean sequential 100 mile days, but when I am honest with myself, that just doesn’t seem realistic. Something on the order of 60-75 miles a day seems much more sane given that I will be riding often on unpaved trails on a 29er with 10-20 lbs of stuff. I had also considered camping, but that just sounds much more fun than I’m sure it would actually be. Upon further reflection about this, I think 8 days is easily doable. The stops are chosen to facilitate reasonable lodging and food as well as “interesting” places to see while not riding. I am anticipating average speed to be between 10-12 mph which will make for about 6 hrs a day pedaling time.
Annapolis to DC
While I wanted to ride out the door of my house to start this journey, I have done this ride enough on a bike to say screw it, I’m taking the early morning commuter bus with the bike in the cargo hold. Easy to do. Ride the 2 miles to the bus stop.
Leg 1 (3 days): C & O Canal Towpath
The C&O in this direction is all “uphill” at a steady 1% grade if you look at the profile, however in reality it’s basically flat with a series of steps at the locks.
Day 1: DC to Harpers Ferry WV – 65 miles. Hotel: Econo Lodge, 25 Union St
Day 2: Harpers Ferry WV to Hancock MD – 60 miles. Hotel: America’s Best Value Inn, 2 Blue Hill Rd
Day 3: Hancock MD to CUmberland MD – 60 miles. Hotel: Fairfield Inn right on the trail.
Leg 2 (2 days): Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail
The GAP is all uphill to the continental divide on the first day, but its a stead 2-3%, not hard but will be a bit slower. The packed cinder surface of the GAP is awesome and I have actually ridden up this section on my road bike, which makes for an awesome 20 mile FTP test because its a rock steady big ring hill.
Day 4: Cumberland MD to Confluence PA – 65 miles. Hotel: Confluence B&B, right off the trail
Day 5: Confluence PA to Homestead PA – 80 miles. Hotel: Courtyard Pittsburgh, right off the trail.
Leg 3 (2 day): Transit to the Lake Erie Watershed
Day 6: Homestead PA to Stuebenville OH – 60 miles. This is now “uncharted territory” for me. I want to detour through downtown Pittsburgh so I can see the GAP all the way to the terminus and will do this first thing in the morning (+10 miles). After the detour, make my way out of the city and make my way on surface roads through the southwest suburbs and connect to the Panhandle Trail in Collier Township. That will be the fist 15 miles that is not on trail. Just after the PA/OH border, the Panhandle Tail bends north, so the route exits there onto surface roads into Steubenville, about another 10 miles of non-trail. Hotel: Microtell Steubenville.
Day 7: Stuebenville OH to Massilon OH – 80 miles. This is the longest non-trail section. However, a lot of the roads between Steubenville and Jewett are chip and seal or packed gravel and there is a 15 mile section called the Conotton Creek Trail though Jewett OH. I might also stop by Atwood lake where there is a big Lightning fleet just to see it. In Zoarville OH, it’s back off the road using the Zoar Valley Trail and finally onto the Ohio&Erie Canal Towpath that goes into Massilon OH. This section ends up being about 50 miles on-road. Hotel: Hampton Massilon
Leg 4 (1 day): Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath
Day 8: 80 miles. This section uses the all rest of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath all the way into downtown Cleveland and is primarily downhill in a similar fashion to the C&O and will be fun to ride through the scenic Cuyahoga Valley and into Cleveland through the Flats. There are a bunch of new trails that Bike Cleveland has written about recently that will be fun to see.
Of the total 530 miles, 450 miles are on trails. Pretty neat. More trail could be added by exiting the GAP south of Pittsburgh and using the Montour/Arrowhead Trails as I originally had routed, but I really wanted to go into Pittsburgh so am willing to accept a little more distance on the road.
Once in Cleveland I am sure I will spend a few days with friends and then get on Amtrak at 1:30 am for the ride back to DC.