Category Archives: Biking

C&O Bike Tour 2 with the boys (Shepherdstown to Horseshoe Bend campsite, return)

9 – 10 October 2022

After the success of our first bike tour, I was keen to get the boys out for another adventure before the weather got too cold. With a long weekend coming up, and a stable — but cold — weather forecast, it was perfect time for it.

On the last tour, we rode from the C&O Canal Parking at Shepherdstown to lower town Harpers Ferry, over 3 days and 2 nights. This time, we started from the same place but rode upstream, away from Harpers Ferry.

The plan was to ride for 8 miles to Horseshoe Bend campsite, camp for 1 night, then reverse the route the next day to meet Lexi at the parking spot again.

In some ways, it’s an even better route because there are fewer people and less bike traffic. It’s completely in the woods so the scenery is lovely. The surface is good quality crushed gravel with only a few rough patches.

Day 1: Shepherdstown to Horseshoe Bend campsite (8 miles)

We set off after lunch on Sunday. I remember feeling a bit stressed that morning getting ready. But that soon all melted away once we got underway. The boys were really excited again and all smiles as we set off.

Setting off from Shepherdstown

The trail is beautiful, traffic-free, and flat, so it’s ideal for riding with the boys. At points it drops down steeply to the river, so I had to encourage Owen to look forwards and ride in a straight line. He does weave about a bit but he did tremendously well to ride the full distance on his tiny bike.

The C&O Canal trail is ideal for riding with kids since there is only one way to go and no traffic

When I’m out with the boys, my policy is to stop whenever they want to explore. They don’t want to ride non-stop like I do, they want to see things and engage with nature. It’s the best way to keep them happy and break up the day so we can cover the distance and keep it fun.

On this section of the canal, there are tons of caves to explore, so we stopped at just about every one.

Lots of caves to explore along this section of the trail

We also stopped by the river whenever opportunity presented itself. I’m happy to enjoy the stunning river vista and the boys are happy to hunt for shells, bugs, and fish.

Watching the minnows at Snyder’s Landing boat ramp

I had to encourage the boys to keep pedaling, to keep some momentum, to ensure we could get to camp before it went dark though.

Brothers on the trail together

We pulled into Horseshoe Bend hiker biker campsite around 5.30pm, an hour or so before dark. This gave ample time to set up the tent, make dinner, and, you guessed it, explore the surroundings.

Our tent at Horseshoe Bend campsite

It was a beautiful fall evening and the colors along the river were starting to show. In another week or so, it’ll be sublime!

Beautiful fall colors along the Potomac River

We shared the campsite with one other bike tourer, a gentleman named Mike, who was riding from Pittsburgh to D.C. (this is the GAP + C&O combined, that Pete and I did as part of our 2014 NE bike tour).

Full view of the campsite

Mike had a fire going already when we arrived, and the boys enjoyed this as much for the spectacle of the fire as for the warmth. It was a cold evening, a portent of things to come.

Enjoying the warmth of a campfire and hot chocolate (wishing we’d brought s’mores stuff!)

It was dark by 7.30 so we were in the tent before 8 to read books (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, fantastic story!).

The boys were asleep by around 9, me shortly afterwards.

It was a cold night! It got down to 34 F. The boys slept right through the night but I woke up a few times rather cold, my old summer sleeping bag not quite cutting it. Not a bad night though, I had plenty of layers to put on.

Day 2: Horseshoe Bend campsite to Shepherdstown (8 miles)

We awoke to a beautiful morning, with mist hanging over the river.

Mist on the Potomac River at daybreak
Waking up in the tent after a cold night. The boys slept as well as they do at home! 🙂

Owen helped me make peanut butter bagels and hot chocolate (for the boys), granola and tea (for me) on the camp stove. Once made, we took the breakfast back to the tent to eat with Dominic, from the warmth of our sleeping bags.

Packed up and ready to ride, morning of day 2

The riding on day 2 was a reverse of day 1’s route. They were a little tired so I bribed them with M&Ms every time we stopped.

Rough area ahead (but it wasn’t bad at all)
Dominic and Owen on the trail
Me bringing up the rear

Dominic found a great rocky beach to explore mid-morning. We found lots of river clam shells (some really big ones) and hung out for a half hour or so playing games and watching the river rush by.

Beach combing along the Potomac

Again, we explored some of the many caves in the area. The boys wanted to go deeper than I was willing to go. When Dominic said “Dad, we’ll have to crawl through here” I said that was far enough 😉

I just need to mention “spider!” if I want to get them out the cave quickly

We had a longer lunch break at Taylor’s landing (incidentally where I met Chuck on a paddle board trip a couple of months ago).

The boys were content to balance on this log and jump back to the shore. Everything is a playground at this age.

The Great Outdoors. Best playground in the world.

We passed a (water) snake on the towpath after lunch. The boys were fascinated. Soon after, we saw a couple of field mice, which would have made a tasty snack for the snake.

Snake on the trail! A water snake (I think)

Half a mile further on, we crossed paths with Chuck and his buddy, out on a bike ride going the opposite direction, and chatted with them for a while.

Then all that remained was to ride the last couple of miles back to the parking lot at Shepherdstown, where Lexi met us.

Lexi took the boys and their bikes, the trailer, and all the camping gear home. I rode back home on my bike. It was a nice to ride a light bike again.

Overall, it was great fun and another successful trip together. Way more fun that sitting around the house and watching TV. I think the boys enjoyed it as much as I did. My goal is to have them enjoy it so they want to keep doing these adventures for years to come.

3-Day Bike And Paddle Board Tour On The C&O Towpath And Potomac River

29 September – 1 October 2022

  • Day 1: Bike 39 miles / 4 hrs 12 min
  • Day 2: SUP 10.5 miles / 4 hrs 48 min & Bike 23.3 miles / 2 hrs 29 min
  • Day 3: SUP 2.1 miles / 1 hr 3 min & Bike 4.3 miles / 41 min

Day 1: Home to Cumberland Valley campsite

Day 1 route along the C&O canal on the bike

I left home on the bike towing the trailer loaded with camping gear and paddling gear. The portage down the steps at the end of the pedestrian bridge — to gain the C&O canal — was rather strenuous to say the least! It took 4 trips to get the bike, trailer, board, and dry bags down to the canal.

The riding was easy by comparison! Well, at least this first section up to Shepherdstown, where the most notable thing was the number of other bikers and walkers out (it was a beautiful afternoon!).

Past Shepherdstown, the riding was quieter. It’s a really lovely section. I did spy through the trees that the river was extremely low (almost at drought level), so there were far more rocks showing than on previous paddles. This didn’t bode well for the paddle boarding part of the mission.

Rocks, rocks everywhere on the Potomac

Shortly after the Big Woods campsite, the trail deteriorates to loose sandy gravel and ruts. It’s all rideable, but not very easy compared to the trail up to that point.

I fell off at one point. The deep gravel slowed the trailer down, which pulled at my bike and threw me off sideways into the grass. No harm done, the whole thing was quite amusing. Shame I didn’t have a video! 😉

Crash!

Next up was the impressive dam 4 – a low head dam across the whole river connected to a small hydro plant. I remember being here with my brother in 2014, on our tour of the C&O and GAP trails (part of a longer NE USA tour).

Dam 4

Past dam 4 is my favorite section of the trail, where you ride along the side of the river on the towpath. The barges traveled this section of the C&O canal along the river, because dam 4 backs the water up and makes for a deep, slow section, known as Big Slackwater.

Towpath at Big Slackwater
It’s a lot of gear! But honestly, it’s totally manageable as long as you don’t meet any hills…

Up ahead I could see some ominous red signs, barriers, and construction machinery. Uh oh! The towpath was closed. Thankfully, there was a diversion, so I didn’t have to abandon my plan to continue further along the trail.

The detour turned away from the river and climbed steeply up a dirt trail to a road. It was so steep that I had to face backwards and pull the bike up by the handlebars, right at my limit. It was too heavy to push. This was what I came for though, adventure and struggle. Loved every minute of it.

Detour!
Doesn’t look like much but it took a severe effort to pull this lot up the hill 😉

After the dirt road came a few miles of hilly country roads. It was excellent cycling, but hard work with the trailer. I also missed having my clip-in shoes, having opted to ride in trainers (so everything else was easier).

I was relieved to reach the C&O towpath again a few miles later. My quads were screaming with the effort and I was ready to reach camp.

I almost stopped at Opequon campsite because it looked excellent and was empty. But I stuck with my plan to reach Cumberland Valley campsite – it would give me more paddling miles tomorrow.

I made it to camp!

At camp, there were 4 other bike tourers: John, Dave, and Barry (a group from PA) and a younger guy called Mitchell. We had a really fun evening chatting and swapping stories. Dave brought out a bottle of salted caramel Tennessee whisky at one point, which smelt amazing. Even though I don’t like whisky, I was game to try this one and it was surprisingly good. A great night, lots of funny stories.

Day 2: Cumberland Valley campsite to Huckleberry Hill campsite

River Route on the SUP (day 2)

Day 2 paddling route

Day 2 started with a beautiful sunrise over the Potomac. The river looked serene and inviting. The beach was muddy and shallow, so not ideal for launching, but after assessing it for a while, I decided it would go. No way to avoid the mud though.

Early morning on the Potomac River, from Cumberland Valley campsite

Back at the tent, I blew up the board and had breakfast. It takes much longer to strike camp when you have to also transition from one sport to another.

River transport, trail transport, and home

John, Dave, and Barry were fascinated by my setup and plan to travel home via the river. They helped carry my stuff down to the river bank where I lashed the bike to the front of the board, and the trailer to the back of the board.

With that done, it was time to push off into the river!

With the extra weight, the board was definitely a little more wobbly than usual, but I quickly got used to it. I pushed out to the middle of the river kneeling, but then stood up once it was deeper.

My bike strapped onto the front of the board, with the front wheel removed
Super happy to be out on the river
I stopped for lunch at Opequon campsite, 5 miles downstream from where I camped
The board beached at Opequon campsite
Outstanding scenery along the Big Slackwater section of the river

I paddled past the closed section of the C&O canal towpath, where several teams of construction workers were hard at work to rennovate the towpath. It’s a beautiful section of the river to paddle. Wide, deep, and slow moving. It’s more like a long lake than a river at this point. Makes for relaxing, slow paddling.

Floating alongside the towpath at Big Slackwater

I took out at Big Slackwater boat ramp, about a mile upriver from dam 4. These low head dams are super dangerous for paddlers, and an almost certain death sentence if you go over one.

At the takeout

I’d paddled about 11 miles downstream, in four and a half hours. My hands and shoulders were tired, so it was a good time to transition back to the bike.

Bike Route along the C&O (day 2)

Originally I had hoped to paddle this section, but the river was so low, and so many rocks were exposed, that I decided it wouldn’t work for standup paddling. So I hopped back on my bike to ride the canal downstream again, to Killiansburg Cave campsite, where I planned to camp.

Day 2 bike route

Along the way, other hikers and bikers kept mentioning the coming storm (the remnants of Hurricane Ian). I knew that rain was forecast but wasn’t expecting anything worse. But since everyone else was planning to be off the trail, I was open to reconsidering my plan. I got a new forecast as soon as I had reception again, and since it still looked like only heavy rain, I decided to stay out for this second night.

I had an early dinner at Killiansburg Cave campsite but decided to keep going. It wasn’t as nice as some of the other hiker biker campsites.

Dinner – mountain house meal and a cup of tea

I rode all the way to Huckleberry Hill campsite — where I’d camped with the boys a few weeks earlier — and set up just as the rain was starting to come down. There was one other hiker at the camp, so I wasn’t the only mad one camping in the rain.

A wet and muddy camp at Huckleberry Hill campsite

Day 3: Huckleberry Hill campsite to home

It hammered with rain all night, and I woke up to huge puddles outside the front of the tent. The saturated ground couldn’t soak up all the rain.

Everything was wet and muddy, the water had even seeped into the front half of the tent. But I still slept pretty soundly through it all!

Home, sweet home
Boiling water for breakfast

Breakfast SUP session

Day 3 paddling route

This section of the river is just upstream from the remnants of dam 3 so, like it does at dam 4, the water gets backed up. Hence, it’s deeper than other parts of the river and suitable for paddle boarding, despite the severely low river. So I inflated the board and headed out for a morning paddle. Since I wasn’t moving camp, I didn’t have the bike and gear loaded up on the board this time.

Breakfast on the river

The mist and rain showers made for an atmospheric paddle, and the mountains over Harpers Ferry looked magnificent.

Looking downriver to Harpers Ferry

Strong gusts of wind made the paddling upstream arduous, and created small waves on the river to add some extra excitement. All in all, a great paddle.

Taking a break at “shell beach”

Final bike leg to home

Day 3 bike route

I struck camp for the final time, and rolled up the sopping wet tent. Everything was wet and muddy, but I was grinning ear to ear.

Packed up and ready to roll out of camp on the morning of day 3

There were two final obstacles before reaching home. First, hauling all my stuff up the stairs onto the bridge into Harpers Ferry. And then second, riding up the hill in Harpers Ferry to get home. Both were suitably hard and a fitting finish to the tour!

Recap Video

I took a few videos on my phone, which give the flavor of the trip:

Summary

A great few days testing out this multisport bike/SUP discipline. After the first bike/SUP experiment proved that the concept works, this one proved that it scales to multi-day trips.

It’s given me enough knowledge to know that the full C&O canal towpath and Potomac river could be traversed in this manner. Starting from HF, I could paddle to DC, turnaround and ride to Cumberland, then float back to HF. I would need to portage the rapids at HF and Great Falls of course, and the dams, but the majority of the river is flat and runable. I think it would make for a great 10 – 14 day adventure. One for the future!

C&O Bike Tour with the boys (Shepherdstown to Harpers Ferry)

16 – 18 September 2022

At the beginning of summer 2022, my wife and I sat down with our boys and made a bucket list of summer adventures. We had a great summer and ticked most of them off. But there was one adventure — dear to my heart — that we hadn’t done yet. Camping.

The boys were desperate to go. They really enjoyed last year’s micro backpacking adventure. I was keen too, so it was time for another adventure.

Day 1: Shepherdstown to Antietam Creek campground (3 miles)

I rode from home along the C&O canal to Shepherdstown where I met Lexi and the boys. She picked them up from school and brought their bikes and the camping gear in the car. The plan was to ride back home over the next 3 days.

Super excited as we set off!

I used a Burley Flatbed trailer to haul our camping gear: the tent, 3 sleeping bags, 3 roll mats, cooking gear, spare clothes, 3 days of food, and about 12 liters of water!

Off we go!

Typical scenery along the canal

We covered the 3 miles to Antietam campground quicker than I expected. The boys rode really well.

I forgot that Antietam campsite required online bookings, so for a short while the success of the trip hung in the balance whilst I booked one of the last remaining tent sites, on my phone with very patchy data.

The campsite was fantastic (apart from the individual shouting obscenities at various times through the night. Drunk? Probably. Thankfully the kids slept through it.)

Day 2: Antietam Creek campground to Huckleberry Hill campground (8 miles)

We were up and away by 8 the next morning. A thick, wet fog hung over the river and the campsite so the grass, the tent, the bikes, and our feet were all soaking as we set off.

Soon after leaving the campground, we arrived at Antietam Creek Aqueduct, so we stopped to explore for a while.

Looking out at a foggy Potomac River

The river looked stunning with the fog.

Potomac River from Antietam Aqueduct

We stopped for lunch at Lock 37. Chicken wraps, fruit, muffins, and tea (for Dad) were on the menu.

Owen’s helmet had a lot of positive comments from other hikers and bikers

Along the way we stopped frequently to explore the river edge, collect bugs, and check out the cave near Dargan.

“Shell beach” near to Huckleberry Hill campsite
“Naan” the cicada came along for part of the ride
What’s more exciting to a 7-year old than a real cave?

The boys rode strongly all day and easily managed the 8 miles. The key was the frequent stops to explore, so that they never had to ride too far in one go.

We arrived at the campsite in the early afternoon, when no-one else was there. By dinner time, a handful of other bike touring groups had arrived and one hiking group.

The evening light over the river was beautiful.

That evening a park ranger visited the campground, to check everyone was ok and ask for more information about the drunk at Antietam the previous night. I was relieved that the ranger was out there, because I was nervous he might show up again.

Another unusual thing happened that night too. We heard a series of loud pops, then a few moments later, heard a tree falling down. It sounded like fireworks going off! Thankfully, it happened some way away from the campsite but nevertheless was a sombre reminder that there are risks to being out in the woods. It was dark when this happened and I meant to look the next morning, but completely forgot 😉

Day 3: Huckleberry Hill campground to lower town Harpers Ferry (4 miles)

We enjoyed a leisurely morning at camp, enjoying the quiet and chatting with the other campers.

Huckleberry Hill Hiker Biker Campsite

We returned up the trail to “Shell Beach” for another explore, before turning our bikes downstream again, and heading down the trail towards Harpers Ferry.

We stopped to explore the river edge by the ruins of Dam 3, where the flat water turns to whitewater, and becomes a section of rapids called “The Needles”.

We reached Harpers Ferry at around 11.30am.

Climbing the stairs up the pedestrian bridge with the loaded trailer was the hardest physical challenge of the trip. It’s a spiral staircase and I was at my limit hauling the loaded trailer to the top.

The boys were tired as we walked over the bridge into Harpers Ferry. It was a hot day and they had reached their limit. We bit off just the right amount.

Lexi picked them and the trailer up in lower town, and I rode the final uphill mile back to the house.

Tired but happy at the finish line!

All in all, it was a fantastic, memorable trip with the boys. Really, really good trip.

They seemed to enjoy it a lot too. I’m looking forward to our next adventure together!

Bike to Swains Lockhouse along the C&O canal, with Dominic

8th April 2022

Bike / 46.8 miles / 123 ft ascent / 6 hours 29 minutes

Setting off from Harpers Ferry with Dominic

My eldest son Dominic joined me for the first 7 miles to Brunswick, our longest ride together. We had a blast along the canal and he did great. One thing to keep in mind when cycling with young children is that they’re prone to stop suddenly, when they spot something interesting. Be ready to hit the brakes yourself! 😉

Cruising along the canal towpath between Harpers Ferry and Brunswick

Lexi picked Dominic up in Brunswick and I continued along the canal. I had another 40 miles to go to reach the Lockhouse.

Just beyond Brunswick is Little Catoctin Creek, which was heavily flooded after all the recent rain. I thought about attempting to cross, but quickly decided against it. The trail dips down quite far — I’m sure the water would have been waist deep or more in the middle.

Luckily I met another cyclist here, who had bypassed the flooded trail by way of the railway lines earlier in the day. He reassured me it was an easy detour. There was a train already on the far line, but the near line was clear, so we climbed the embankment and proceeded on foot down the lines until we could rejoin the canal towpath on the other side. I backtracked to help a mother/daughter team — on a multi-day tour — get past this point.

My Strava route showing the detour
Hot footing down the railway line

I cycled with my fellow rail-bridge-biker for the next few miles, chatting about our mutual appreciation of the canal and the bike touring.

Monocacy Aqueduct was next, 21 miles into the ride:

Monocacy Aqueduct

The next 15 miles were lovely and quiet. Mile after mile of towpath, meandering through the trees with the canal on my left and the river to my right.

I passed Seneca Creek Aqueduct around 41 miles into the ride:

Seneca Creek Aqueduct

Six miles later I reached Lockhouse 21, Swains lockhouse, where I finished my ride. I met up with Lexi and the boys, and tucked hungrily into the pizza that Lexi brought. We were originally planning to stay the night in the lockhouse, but had to return home instead on this occasion. We’ll be back though.

Swains Lockhouse, number 21
Swains lock

All in all, a great day’s riding along the canal. Particularly the first 7 miles with Dominic. I was really proud of how well he did.

Bikepacking around the North East of the United States

I’ve finally got round to editing the photos from this year’s tour and want to share them here along with some of the stories from this trip.

Originally, my brother and I had planned a summer of bike touring around the Western US. We began in San Francisco with an ambitious plan to follow a huge horseshoe route around the mountains of the West. This went awry when I crashed heavily on day 9, forcing me to return home, rest and re-assess plans. We changed our strategy, planned a new route and set off from DC, finally riding a 2,300 mile loop around the North East of the US, over 25 days.

1. The trusty steed
A standard Cannondale cyclocross bike with Revelate bikepacking gear was the perfect setup for this tour. Fast enough to cover long distances on the road, light enough to climb any hill with only a compact double, agile enough to lift easily over obstacles we encountered and tough enough to ride off road for several days at the beginning of the tour. By the end, the bikes felt more like friends than mere mechanical objects.

Cannondale setup in bikepacking mode

Cannondale setup in bikepacking mode

2. C & O Canal
The first two and a half days were spent riding along the C & O canal: 185 miles of off-road, traffic free riding from Washington, DC to Cumberland. My back was still hurting like crazy from the crash earlier in the year, so I had to take strong pain killers to help me sleep in the tent at night. The canal towpath was scenic, quiet and full of historic interest. Highly recommended for bike touring.

Cycling past an historic canal aqueduct

Cycling past an historic canal aqueduct

3. Night riding along the C & O canal
We were slower than anticipated along the C & O canal as a result of my bad back and a poor riding surface (in places) so we didn’t make it to our chosen campsites before darkness fell. As we only had head torches, it made for some interesting night-time riding.

Pete cruising along the C&O at night

Pete cruising along the C&O at night

4. Stretching on the GAP trail
From the end of the C & O canal in Cumberland, we picked up the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail to Pittsburgh, a further 150 miles of off-road riding. The GAP trail gives superb riding through miles and miles of forests, with hardly a soul out there.

Stretching on the GAP trail

Stretching on the GAP trail

5. Pittsburgh
The end of the GAP trail and the end of the signed, off-road bike paths. Personally I was relieved to have made it this far, but still felt there was only a 50-50 chance of being able to continue the tour from here because of my back pain. We stopped overnight in a hotel in Pittsburgh, ate in a dingy, cheap restaurant, gorged on fantastic chocolate from The Milk Shake Factory and slept a deep sleep. A real bed did wonders for my back and the bike tour was still on!

Fountain in Pittsburgh

Fountain in Pittsburgh

6. Changing brake pads in Meadville, PA
Pete’s bike did not have a particularly happy tour! It began with a scraping sound from his rear disc brake, which we were able to fix ourselves relatively easily in Meadville, as we waited out a passing storm. Several days later his rear sprocket and free wheel began making all sorts of horrible noises, which continued on and off for the duration of the tour. We had two bike shops take a look along the way and replace various bits, which helped keep us going….for a while.

Replacing brake pads in Meadville, PA

Replacing brake pads in Meadville, PA

7. Sunset on Lake Erie
From Pittsburgh, we cycled through Amish country for two days to Lake Erie, where we raced the setting sun to the PA/NY state line and camped right on the lake shore. This was our longest day so far, 114 miles. We arrived just in time to pitch the tent and take a sunset photo. Lake Erie is so vast it felt like we were camping along the ocean. The campground hosts made us feel very welcome, offering us a prime pitch looking out over the water, bottled water, use of a charging point for our cellphones and not charging us full price when we didn’t have the available change. The generosity of the strangers we met on the bikes was something refreshing and wonderful, something one doesn’t encounter too often in day-to-day life.

Sunset over Lake Erie

Sunset over Lake Erie

8. Niagara Falls
An amazing sight. Spectacular. Superb. Deafening. Monumental. Be warned though, the statistics are not good if you decide to go swimming.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls — Bridal Veil falls

9. A pain in the ass
Literally. Beyond Niagara we picked up the Erie Canal towpath for around 60 miles until just beyond Rochester. For me, this was some of the most difficult riding of the tour as saddle sores were causing me all sorts of discomfort in the afternoons. Aside from this issue, the canal made for lovely, relaxed riding (it was flat and traffic free!).

Sunset over the Erie Canal

Sunset over the Erie Canal

10. Lake Ontario
We reached Lake Ontario, our second Great Lake, on day 9, at a pretty little hamlet on the lake shore by Salmon Creek, called Pultneyville, scene of a battle between British invaders and American locals in 1814.

Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario

11. Sunset from our camp on the shores of Lake Neatahwanta, near Fulton, upstate New York
We arrived into camp and pitched the tent just before dusk, a common theme on this tour. That evening, we walked through the woods (and the worst swarm of bugs I’ve ever encountered) to have an excellent dinner and beers at the Red Brick Pub in Fulton. We caught a taxi back to the campsite that night (we decided unlit roads with no sidewalk was too risky). The cab driver was a character — as he drove through the campsite in the dark, a fellow camper said “Hey, the speed limit is 5mph” to which he replied, in thick New York accent, “Whaddya think I’m doing, huh, you wanna drive?”. For some reason this amused us greatly, and my brother and I laughed about it for days.

Sunset over Lake Neatahwanta

Sunset over Lake Neatahwanta

12. Into the Adirondacks
Beautiful scenery, brilliant, quiet roads and fantastic riding. This is what we came for.

Pete cycling

Pete cycling

13. Lake in the Adirondacks
The numerous lakes through eastern New York (and Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine) were beautiful. Scenic roads hugged their shores, giving us cyclists the perfect backdrop as we pushed the pedals.

Lake in the Adirondacks

Lake in the Adirondacks

14. Camp at Paradox Lake, New York, on night 11 of the tour
I liked this campsite, mainly because of the misty, atmospheric conditions we had. It felt like we were the only ones around for miles and miles.

Camp at Lake Paradox

Camp at Lake Paradox

15. Covered bridge in Vermont
Old, wooden, covered bridges were few and far between on this tour so I was particularly excited by this one and insisted that Pete get a photo of me riding into it. Having seen hardly any cars in the previous hour, one arrived barely a moment after this photo was taken, requiring a hasty retreat to the right side of the bridge.

Covered bridge in Vermont

Covered bridge in Vermont

16. Thirsty work under a blazing sun

Thirsty work

Thirsty work

17. Cresting Kancamagus Pass, New Hampshire
Our high point of the trip, and some of the best cycling too. An earlier sign titled “No Gas – 32 miles” made us chuckle as we joked we shouldn’t have eaten such a heavy lunch. By this stage of a long outdoors trip, toilet humour takes over as the main relief for weary minds.

Kancamagus Pass, New Hampshire

Kancamagus Pass, New Hampshire

18. White Mountains of New Hampshire
Arguably the best scenery of the trip, although one might argue the same for the day we cycled through the Adirondacks past Mt Marcy. Certainly some of the best cycling. I enjoyed the long climbs up and over passes in the White Mountains. They afforded plenty of time for day-dreaming, time to enjoy the splendid scenery, time to embrace the exhaustion emanating from one’s legs. One is able to use the excuse of a photo opportunity at various scenic overlooks to cover up one’s suffering, and give those tired legs a little time to recover.

White Mountains of New Hampshire

White Mountains of New Hampshire

19. Panorama from the Kancamagus Pass road, New Hampshire

Mountain Panorama

Mountain Panorama

20. Maine, where roadworks were never far away
Before the tour, I thought Maine would provide some of the best riding of the tour, and, though it was stunningly beautiful, it was less suited to bike touring than the previous few days through Vermont and New Hampshire. Partly that was attributable to us being there over a weekend, so we had to contend with holiday traffic on the busy coastal roads of Maine. This did not make for relaxing riding at times. The other factor we noticed in Maine more than any other state, and this is understandable given how far North Maine is, was the poor quality of the road surfaces. Frost heaves, huge potholes and unlaid roads meant we had to keep our wits about us at all times.

New road in Maine

New road in Maine

21. Feeling remote in Maine
We relished getting away from the traffic and off the beaten track, although these unsealed roads were precarious at times. Small rocks were everywhere, ready to flick a wheel off its natural course and tip you over, so speeds were necessarily low. Absolute concentration was required so they were tiring miles, but experiences like this were always preferable to clogged up highways.

Dirt road, Maine

Dirt road, Maine

22. Victory!
We ate lobster on the Atlantic coast of Maine, thereby achieving the goal we had set ourselves several weeks earlier. A steadfast determination had gotten us here. The reward was a deep sense of satisfaction as we munched through these delicious lobster rolls. It was with some degree of relief too, at least on my part, to be here in Maine, as I had been worried the crash on the west coast had laid waste to any further biking this summer. The tour felt like a redemption of sorts, salvaging a great adventure from the pieces of our earlier summer tour.

Eating lobster

Eating lobster

23. Feeling fresh as a peppermint
Taking a break in Stafford, Connecticut. By this stage a cumulative fatigue had set in, so that each day the legs felt a little heavier, with a little less pop. We frequently reminded ourselves that it was a marathon, not a sprint. Keep turning those pedals, our mantra went, and so we did, from morning to evening, enjoying the satisfaction that comes from covering long distances each day.

Weary legs

Weary legs

24. In the hurt locker as we near home
We could smell the finish line as we raced through Maryland during the last couple of days to home, in Arlington, Virginia.

Pete at speed

Pete at speed

25. Finish line photo
We made it! This photo was taken by my wife as we cycled back along the road where it all began, three and a half weeks earlier. It was particularly memorable to simply ride back to my front door at the end of such a long trip, prop the bikes up in the garage, take a shower and then sit in the living room with a cup of tea, as if we had just returned from a two hour training ride.

Finish line

Finish line

26. Mileage chart from the Eastern Tour
We ended up covering just over 2,300 miles in 25 days, of which 24 were riding days. We took one rest day in Burlington, Vermont. Our average daily mileage ended up being around 96 miles for the riding days. We were pretty tired by the end.

Mileage chart

Mileage chart