|Somewhere on the C&O Canal. Photo credit: Patty|
Five months later our 335 mile GAPCO adventure resonates like no other time on two wheels. Perhaps it's the proximity to large and small cities, yet feels like a country ramble through the woods. Perhaps it's a myriad of welcoming small towns, providing all manner of accommodations. Perhaps it's the touring cyclists' camaraderie. Or that the Great Allegheny Passage trail seamlessly blends into the C&O Canal towpath, yet both trails are distinctive and can be an enjoyable journey on their own."People don't take trips, trips take people."
It's heartwarming to experience firsthand how small communities embrace bicycle tourism. In turn, cyclists learn a region's history. Other long distance rail trails should emulate this symbiotic nature. This rare blend of spectacular trail network was a long time coming in the U.S.—a movement that's sure to grow as more trails are developed and linked.
|C& O Canal, approaching Big Slackwater. Photo credit: Patty|
A big surprise: both trails are 90% tree covered. Leave the sunscreen behind. However, come prepared for colder than predicted temperatures in September and October. Because of shaded trail, chilly mornings will not warm until 10 or 11 a.m. Trade-off: mosquitoes are gone; we had our pick of campsites, and could fall back on indoor accommodation during inclement weather. Next time, I'd add chemical warmers for back up warmth; they're small enough to pack without adding a bulky second pair of shoes.
Incidentals and Equipment Review
I'm a veteran bike tourist, but with the advent of lightweight gear, new fabrics, and different tour companions lending a fresh perspective, I continually learn new ways of doing things. It becomes an on-road class in bike touring with every adventure.
I giggled when my girlfriend bought Jiffy Pop to have as a snack—not too mention that it's impossible to pack inside panniers. However, if kept flat on rear rack Jiffy Pop stays intact. It also cooks pretty fast on a simple camp stove. And did you know that wine and popcorn go well together? I'm sold on this combination for any upcoming bike tour!
|Photo credit: Patty|
My husband used an inexpensive plastic poncho as bike tarp, plus as additional coverage over an inadequate rain jacket. I presume it could also replace rain gear on an overnight adventure, saving space, and/or utilized as tent ground sheet. Get one at your local dollar store.
I would have preferred riding my mountain bike (I lent it to my girlfriend), but found my touring bike was very comfortable and certainly adequate for the entire journey.
An unexpected side effect: our bike tires constantly flung sticks and twigs. This happened even on GAP's fine, stone dust surface. We worried the twigs would lodge in our wheels and break spokes.
|My bike had two fender problems.|
Avenir Excursion small panniers held up well. One side housed ground pad, sleeping bag, and rain wear, while the opposite compartment held clothing and toiletries. If you're a minimalist, the price is right for a decent amount of capacity.
Eight days of bike touring on GAPCO's amazing network was certainly a highlight of 2013. I couldn't have traveled with better companions than my husband and dear friend, Patty. I hope we share many more two-wheeled adventures.
For a collection of day by day blog posts, see GAPCO Trail 2013.