Here's the plan - Two Wheels, One Heart - CycleBlaze

October 5, 2023

Here's the plan

How will the time on my bike be spent

My Kona Sutra at Washington D.C. Union Station on a prior tour
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Touring style

This is a self-supported credit card tour. I am carrying my clothes and other necessities in two panniers with a handlebar and trunk bag for easy access to on-the-bike needs. Nights are spent in B&Bs and hotels with meals in restaurants. There is no support vehicle.

Travel companions

Three friends are joining me on this tour. All are experienced touring cyclists. I am the sole person who has toured both trails with two having toured the Great Allegheny Passage. It’s a group with compatible personalities and cycling styles. I learned from my years of touring that these are the key factors in selecting companions.

Which way are we going

This is a hot topic in online trail communities. People are opinionated about the direction they prefer to tour.  Cyclists starting in Pittsburgh and heading east believe the winds are favorable with more of a downhill ride. Cyclists starting in Washington D.C. say the trail is flat through Maryland with a big climb into Pennsylvania that results in a long downhill easier pedal into Pittsburgh.

I have cycled the trails in both directions. Each has pluses and minuses but, in the end, it’s a wash. I prefer to start in Washington D.C. I find the elevation on the C&O minimal. The climb up Big Savage Mountain is long and slow but allows for spectacular views of the mountains and valleys below. The GAP is a slight downhill from the Big Savage Mountain summit with 120 miles of easier pedaling.

Lock #6 on the C&O Canal and Lockhouse 6
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Stay in a canal-era lockkeeper house

The group is spending two nights in Lockhouse 6 on the C&O. I have done this before and thoroughly enjoyed it. This beautifully restored lockhouse with modern amenities is only 5 miles outside of Georgetown. It is a step back in time with the view of the canal, towpath, and Potomac. It is a bargain at $170/night.

A day in the nation's capital

The group is spending a day touring Washington D.C. before heading west. I love cycling through the National Mall past government buildings, and monuments. This time of year has fewer visitors which permits visits to the many museums. I highly recommend including a day to tour Wahington D.C. by bike.

Logistics to start in Washington D.C.

The group is driving to Pittsburgh to catch Amtrak’s Capital Limited. I used the bike service offered on the train on three prior tours. It is a bargain, $52 for the ticket and $20 for the bike which hangs in a secure rack in the baggage car. Time in the observation car is quite nice as the train travels through the Allegheny Highlands. 

Washington D.C. Union Station is near the U.S. Capitol. It is a flat and enjoyable 10-mile cycle through the mall and on the Rock Creek and C&O trails to the lockhouse. The cycling infrastructure in Washington D.C. is quite good and the traffic is respectful.

An overview of the route I will cycle this coming week
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Day-by-day breakdown

  • Day 1 – Drive to Pittsburgh and overnight to catch a 5:20 a.m. Capitol Limited train.
  • Day 2 –Amtrak Capitol Limited to Washington D.C. Union station. Cycle 10 miles to Lockhouse 6.
  • Day 3 –22-mile tour of the National Mall and Washington D.C. by bike.
  • Day 4 –56-mile ride to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia on the C&O.
  • Day 5 –45-mile ride to Williamsport, Mayland on the C&O.
  • Day 6 – 43-mile ride to Little Orleans, Maryland on the C&O and Western Maryland Rail Trail.
  • Day 7 - 43-mile ride to Cumberland, Maryland on the C&O.
  • Day 8 – 62-mile ride to Confluence, Pennsylvania on the GAP.
  • Day 9 – 53-mile ride to West Newton, Pennsylvania on the GAP.
  • Day 10 – 41-mile ride to Pittsburgh on the GAP and brief tour of the city before the drive home.

Off to pack for the tour. 
Tom on the trails

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Rick Stout$170 a night is a bargain?
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3 months ago
Tom BilczeTo Rick StoutFinding a hotel in D. C. Under$200 is difficult. $42 each for a night in a historic lockhouse only 5 miles from Georgetown worked well for us. Nice unique accommodations in a super location.
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3 months ago