This update is coming from Burlington, VT, on day 13 of our Eastern Tour. We’re actually taking a rest day today as the bikes required some repairs – thanks to Ski Rack who sorted us out and replaced the bearings and springs in Pete’s rear cassette. We’re now set to go again and can’t wait to start riding again tomorrow.
Since my last update we’ve cycled right across upstate New York, averaging a little over 100 miles a day to keep on track to reach Maine.
Niagara Falls, seen on the morning of day 8, was as impressive a natural wonder as anything I’ve ever seen. Yes, sure it’s touristy, but we were there really early to beat the crowds. We stood in awe, gobsmacked that people have survived going over the falls in barrels, or even one extraordinary story of a drunk chap who thought it was a good idea to go over in only the clothes on his back. Nutcase!
From there we picked up the Erie Canal for 60 miles or so, heading due east to pass south of Rochester, before turning up to Lake Ontario. We were in rural, redneck America – most homes had a “Repeal the SAFE ACT – respect the 2nd amendment” in the front yard. It was interesting country to travel through.
The Adirondacks gave us the best riding of the tour so far – fantastic quiet roads, big mountains, bigger forests and stunning mountain lakes. This was exactly what we came for, and we have many incredible memories from this section.
Our route now takes us east over the Green Mountains and on towards southern Maine. We’re aiming for Rockport or Portland as our final destination on the east coast, before we turn south for the last leg back to DC.
Update from the road on day 7, sitting in a NY diner. Last night we finished the Underground Railroad Pittsburgh spur and camped on the shore of Lake Erie, two days of 75 miles and 114 miles. There was so much packed into two days: heavy industrial landscapes as we left Pittsburgh, many crossings of the Ohio river, some testing little climbs, Amish country, miles and miles of open countryside, Pete’s back brake failing, replacing it under an awning as a huge thunderstorm rolled by, getting completely soaked, hitting our first century distance as we raced the sunset to the PA/NY state line, and lastly watching the sunset from camp on the shore of Lake Erie. A really great two days.
We’re in Pittsburgh now, at the end of the Great Allegheny Passage, having left DC four days ago. It’s been an excellent few days, 340 miles of traffic free cycling, the majority of that in secluded, quiet forests. The section leaving Cumberland was all uphill until the Eastern Continental Divide, 2392ft high. Whilst the gradient was mild and steady the whole way, it still tired us out. The views were spectacular wherever we had a break through the trees.
We rode through four long tunnels yesterday, leftover legacies of the canal or rail builders taking direct routes through the mountains. We also passed the Mason-Dixon Line so we’re officially in the North now.
Our camp last night near Confluence was one of the best of the summer so far. Chatting around the fire with fellow bike tourers and walkers, and Pete and I were inducted into the genius of the s’mores! Real, gooey ones made over a campfire, superb.
Today we put in 53 miles before lunch, gorged ourselves silly on big sandwiches at West Newton, and then cruised the last 38 miles into Pittsburgh, through increasingly industrial landscapes.
Excuse the brevity of this post – I’m typing on an iPhone.
My brother and I are having lunch in Cumberland, MD, at the terminus of the C&O canal and the start of the GAP trail to Pittsburgh, our next target. It’s been two and a half days of really enjoyable riding from DC. Some rough surfaces aside, the trail has been relaxing riding through the woods with great campsites along the edge of the Potomac River. My back hasn’t been too bad and continues to get better. The bikes have been great and we’re not wanting for anything, despite our light setup.
We’re heading out of Cumberland shortly, aiming for Pittsburgh and then on towards Lake Erie.
Today we’re setting off again, picking up the pieces from the aborted No Rest Out West bike tour and beginning a new ride up the eastern seaboard. We’re cycling from home this time, leaving right from the front door after breakfast. I love tours that start and end at home – there’s something about the purity of the route when it doesn’t involve any other mechanised transport, only the power of one’s legs and the bicycle.
We’re going with a much lighter setup this time, partly to avoid the unstable bike setup we had out west and partly to allow us to travel further each day. Whether we can uphold our side of this deal and actually pedal further each day remains to be seen, but we’ll give it our best shot. We’re both champing at the bit to get out there and challenge ourselves again.
The new route we’ve mapped out, documented more elegantly here by my brother, takes us from the capital, Washington DC, inland to Lake Erie, before we turn north east and ride through New York and into New England. If time permits, we’re aiming for Maine, but we’ll see how we go. Our return route will be along the Atlantic coast route, following the coast in places but heading inland as we head further south. I’ve come to love the various parts of the eastern US that I’ve seen, so I’m excited to fill in the gaps and see more of the mountains, lakes and natural beauty of this region.
It’s a loop linking up the following route: C&O canal, GAP trail, Underground Railroad Pittsburgh spur, Northern Tier and Atlantic Coast.
This very rough screen-grab/sketch-map shows our approximate route: