Brian Collins joined us for a trip on the Great Allegheny Passage in October 2018 trip as a solo rider. From San Francisco, California, Brian clearly has a great eye for what makes a good picture – at the end of his trip he sent us two folders (one for the GAP, one for the C&O Canal Towpath) full of images. The images are a visual documentary of what a cyclist can experience along the trail.
So Brian’s rider spotlight is a bit different – aside from this introduction, his entry is entirely made up of images documenting various segments of the GAP/C&O. The images tell the story of Brian’s tour. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we did!
Pittsburgh to Homestead
McKeesport to West Newton
West Newton to Ohiopyle
Cumberland/Canal Place – where the GAP and C&O Canal Towpath meet!
Jim Mullane, from Cleveland, OH, is an avid cyclist who spends most of his time on the Ohio and Erie Canal Trail (OEC). Having explored over 100 miles of the OEC, Jim decided it was time to explore other trails and try out a multiday trip. Having read an article about the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O, Jim decided to do the entire trail in one ride.
As with many trips this last summer, Jim’s plans got derailed. Between the tropical storm Gordon and hurricane Florence, Jim decided to reschedule the GAP and C&O trails and instead tackle the Katy Trail, where the weather looked to be a bit more predictable.
The Katy Trail is a state park that runs east-west through central Missouri. It’s a recreational rail trail 240 miles (390 km) long and it follows the former Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad. The nickname “Katy” comes from the phonetic pronunciation of ‘KT’ in the railroad’s abbreviated name, MKT, and it is one of the country’s longest Rails-to-Trails systems.
The Katy Trail is similar to the GAP in overall experience. Peppered with charming small towns, the trail is not quite as smooth as the GAP’s crushed limestone but is close second. Unique to the Katy are the scenes of prairie and soybean fields, wineries and grain silos, plus the mighty Missouri River running alongside.
Jim did an amazing job at detailing his preparations for the trip and his actual bike trip in a series of blog posts. Below are a few highlights we’ve pulled out that may be of benefit to others who are considering a Katy Trail tour with us.
Jim trained for four months, putting in approximately 80-100 miles each week (a combination of outdoor trail riding and indoor trainer riding). Jim writes “The main training objective was to get used to spending 5 to 6 hours per day in the saddle.”
Type of bike:
Jim rode a Trek Checkpoint SL6 “gravel” bike, a full carbon bike with wider tires for the trail. Writes Jim: “The geometry of the bike is a little on the aggressive side but I like the lean forward posture it provides. The bike has SPD pedals and I’ll be wearing SPD compatible shoes (clip in for the duration of the ride).”
“I used a review website (dcrainmaker) for gear advice and reviews. Ray Maker is an interesting individual who writes a blog about sports and fitness tech. The links I’ve included regarding the gear are linked to his site. If you decide to purchase something, do it through his site.”
* Jim provides details on specific types of gear including GPS/bike computers, lights, video cameras, and bags.
“The first part of the trail was fairly open and followed a highway for about 5 miles. We veered away from the highway and headed through a number of open fields. The open fields soon turned into tree covered “tunnels” as I made my way across the farm land.” (Note: the terrain varies and this is just one excerpt from various references to terrain in Jim’s blog posts).
Descriptions of towns/stops:
“I stopped at a bike shop at the trailhead and a very nice proprietor allowed me to check my tire pressure and fill up. It was a short ride from that point to the Hotel Frederick which was my stop for the night. Boonville is a quaint small town on the Missouri River. Since the restaurant was closed in the hotel, I walked a around “Main Street” and found a nice little local restaurant.”
This is just a sample of the great commentary to found on Jim’s blog. We very much enjoyed reading it and Jim allowed us to promote it since it provides such a great firsthand account of his actual experience on the Katy Trail.
In addition to great exercise and travel, Jim’s trip also was a fundraising effort for Bike Cleveland (BikeCLE). Bike Cleveland (BikeCLE) is a 501(c)(3) advocacy non-profit organization for people on bikes in the Greater Cleveland area. Representing over 1000 dues paying members and more than 32 local businesses, they make sure that any time the conversation turns to transportation — that people on bikes are being considered alongside people in cars. They work to improve policy, infrastructure, and legislation to help make our roads places that serve people and communities, not just traffic.
Paula and David kept us entertained during their 7-day Pittsburgh to DC self-guided bike trip last season as they shared their trail photos with us daily. We love their enthusiasm for the trail!
DAY 1. PITTSBURGH TO CONNELLSVILLE
Hi Kelley. We made it. Had a great trip to a Pittsburgh and a great nights sleep at the Marriott Had hamburgers and dark beer at the best place in town. Made it to Connellsville by 4pm. What a great ride. Met all kinds of nice people on the trail. Love love love the Connellsville B&B. Good choice, thanks very much. Lucy is very sweet. ?♀️???
DAY 2. CONNELLSVILLE TO MEYERSDALE
Good evening Kelley: We are having the time of our lives, thank you! ??♀️ ??
DAY 3. MEYERSDALE TO CUMBERLAND
I walked the Paw Paw Tunnel detour with another couple and David rode his bike behind us all the way up and then all four of us rode all the way down together. It was great ?♀️????
DAY 4. CUMBERLAND TO HANCOCK
What a great day we had today. We enjoyed a lunch stop at Desert Rose Cafe Our lodging in Sharpsburg is amazing. We took the lower road so we would be able to ride the whole canal path and tomorrow will ride around the battlefield before getting back on the Towpath. We are the only guests here so it is quite special to say the least. Each day is better than the day before and the beauty of the Towpath is amazing. Thanks for all your help to make this trip so enjoyable. The memories we are making together are precious. ?♀️?
DAY 5. HANCOCK TO SHEPHERDSTOWN/SHARPSBURG
Having the time of our lives continued …
DAY 6. SHEPHERDSTOWN/SHARPSBURG TO LEESBURG
These are from today. Great time with Chris and Amy Vincent at the Inn. We road the long way both ways somas not to miss part of the Tow Path. Took our bikes to Harpers Ferry. Making the most of our trip for sure. Great hotel here in Leesburg. bob is very nice as well as his staff. ?♀️?
DAY 7. LEESBURG TO DC
We did it ?♀️???
Had a great time with the guy who drove the shuttle. Took us under the convention center so we could load our bikes. On our car after David got it out of the parking garage for Amtrak and Greyhound. ??♀️??
Ready to roll with my trail bike rented from Bike the GAP and Eric’s commuter bike, which we brought with us in a box.
Barb is an active rider, a biking advocate, and a proud Washingtonian (the state, that is). She and Eric undertook our GAP/C&O trip in the fall of 2017 and it became an eye-opening experience for them – creating a new love of bike touring in this experienced daily cyclist. She shared her entire journey on her bike style blog and she graciously allowed us to excerpt one of those entries here. These are her lessons learned and you can read all about her entire trip at her Bikespeditions pages.
Thank you Barb and Eric for traveling with us and sharing your trip to educate and inspire others!
None of this will be news to people who have bike toured for years, and I’m sure blog posts and videos and lists abound that could have spared me some of the lessons. But hey, I’ll remember all this firsthand learning.
1) I overpacked. Some of this was due to not fully factoring in the chance to do laundry even though I knew that would be available. Some of it was not realizing how truly warm it would be farther south. I mean hey, it’s fall, which means frosty mornings. Except when it doesn’t. I packed the right things, just too many of them, and one heavier wool top layer I truly won’t need.
So tomorrow morning I’m walking to the post office to mail a box of extra duds home. This will cut down on weight and make it easier to root around in my bags.
2) Eat before you think you need to, which I know from past long rides. Slower, flatter miles aren’t so much easier that this doesn’t apply.
I’m not into the nutrition science that some people really dig, so I don’t calibrate the carb/protein ratio in my meals or anything like that. It’s uncomfortable to ride on a really full stomach so I’m not tanking up to the brim at meals. This means a bar of some kind is my friend, especially if I eat it before I start feeling like I’m running out of fuel.
3) Read the cue sheet before you start to ride. We’re almost entirely on a separated simple path but at the very beginning, caught up in photographing the marker and starting my tracking app, I forgot we had specific instructions for leaving the park. So we toured a scenic construction project, then a nice couple steered us out and onto the trail.
4) I now have a list of little things to pack for the next tour, like hand sanitizer (some park potties don’t have it) and a corkscrew. None of these are fatal, just nice-to-haves.
5) The rain cover for my bike bag makes a great impromptu laundry bag.
So far so good, though! Some warm rain, mostly of the veggie mister variety with one soaking bit as we wrapped up Sunday’s ride but at least it ended rather than started the day. People on the trail are friendly — lots of waves and hellos — and the mileage has been challenging but doable. Not that I’m sorry that tomorrow mostly consists of touring Fallingwater, then riding just 12 miles to our next overnight.
Day 1, Pittsburgh to West Newton, 41 miles
Day 2, West Newton to Ohiopyle, 43 miles
Total mileage so far: 84
(Total mileage per day includes getting to and from our lodgings so it doesn’t match the trail mileage)
At Backyard Gardens Market in Ohiopyle they track where people came from and why they’re in town: biking the GAP, whitewater rafting, Fallingwater, something else. We were the first this year from Seattle to add a blue dot, representing riding both the GAP and the C&O.