East Coast Bicycle Trip

East Coast Bicycle Trip

I'm taking another bicycle trip starting from my hometown of Huron, Ohio and heading into Washington DC, then to Durham, NC, and then possibly farther. I'll keep track of my progress on this site just like I did before.

Josh Orndorff Tue, 08/12/2014 - 21:52

Day 0 -- Preparation

Day 0 -- Preparation

I've been in Huron getting set up for three days now, and I think I have everything ready to go for this second trip. I'm not as nervous as I was for the last one. I think it's mostly because I know what to expect more this time. My first day will not be as long, and I know I have better gear this time. On the other hand I'm heavier than I was last time, so hopefully my wheels hold up.

Wish me luck everybody!

Today's distance: 0 km
Average speed: ? km/h
Trip odometer: 0 km

Josh Orndorff Tue, 08/12/2014 - 21:58

Day 1 -- Huron OH to Medina OH -- Back in the saddle

Day 1 -- Huron OH to Medina OH -- Back in the saddle

I woke up early to be sure I had everything together to leave today. After double checking my packs, breakfast with my mom, and a little nap, I got on the road around 11:00.

It was a tail wind day which was nice because it was my first long ride in over a year. I cruised along fine for the first part of the ride happy that my speed was staying around 28 km/h. As I got to around the halfway point my legs began to feel more sluggish and my speed started to decrease. I didn't like that too much because I had not been riding very long and between the short distance and tail wind I expected to have a pretty easy day.

I made sure to get some Gatorade and food to stay fresh and pressed on. I finally stopped to buy dinner at subway in Medina and found out they were only taking cash because their card machine was broken. That meant I had to use some of my limited cash, but also that I didn't have to pay taxes.

The last 8km to my uncle John's empty for-sale house was downhill and easy, and I finished the day around 3:30.

This was decidedly better than my first day of my last trip for several reasons including shorter distance, tail wind, better training, better gear, and knowing what to expect. Tomorrow will be longer and hillier, but I had lots of time to spare today, so hopefully it will be another good day.

Today's distance: 89 km
Average speed: 26.1 km
Trip odometer: 89 km

Pictures will come later. Signal is to weak here.

Josh Orndorff Wed, 08/13/2014 - 20:52

Day 2 -- Medina OH to Carrollton OH -- Thirsty and hilly

Day 2 -- Medina OH to Carrollton OH -- Thirsty and hilly

I had a hard time getting out of bed this morning. Although I planned to be up by 8:00 and on the road by 9:00, I ended up getting up just after 9:00 and on the road by 9:40.

Early on I got a foot long sub at subway and saved half for lunch. They took my gift card this time.

The beginning of my ride was quite hilly, but I managed to make it through just fine. The largest part in the middle was along a towpath trail which meant there were no serious hills, but the unpaved surface slowed me down a bit. I reminded myself that I was not racing and cruised happily along around 22km/h. Going through the city of Massillion the towpath was interrupted and it took me a little while to find my way but I was back on it in no time.

I got off the trail in the next small town to get water and discovered that the gas stations and restaurants were slightly out of my way. As I was deciding what to do I came across a church that had a spigot on the side so I filled up.

The remainder of the trip was quite hit and really wore me out despite the tailwind and distance that was considerably shorter than many days on the last trip. At one point I looked at the map and noted 13km until the next big turn, but somehow forgot and thought it was 13km to the next city so I didn't take any water. That left me thirsty and tired when the bottles ran out, but luckily another church with another spigot showed up.

When I made it to Carrollton I got some lunch meat and yoghurt at the grocery store and rested for a while before making the last short push to my campground.

Everyone at the campground is super friendly. The owners upgraded me to a camper for free, and player a game of cornhole with me. The camper even has a refrigerator so my lunch meat won't go bad. I also chatted with the people at the next campsite for a while. The husband is up here working on a new oil and gas pipeline which it seems is very big around here now.

I've been surprised how tired my legs have been so far this trip. Luckily tomorrow is a tiny bit shorter. Hopefully I'll get back in shape soon!

Today's distance: 126km
Average speed: 22.6km/h
Trip odometer: 216km

Josh Orndorff Thu, 08/14/2014 - 21:36

Day 3 -- Carrollton OH to Cannonsburg PA -- Familiar roads

Day 3 -- Carrollton OH to Cannonsburg PA -- Familiar roads

I did a better job waking up this morning because the campground owner offered to make new breakfast and I figured I should be there on time. We had eggs over easy together and chatted for a while, and I finally hit the road about 10:00.

Not long after leaving I missed a turn and realized it after I had gone about 2 km too far. I considered riding back the way I had come but the map showed a joining road only about 1 km back. Any little bit helps. When I got to the road it was marked as bridge out. Given my experience last year I almost gave up but then decided I should at least check it out. Luckily this bridge want nearly as out as the sign claimed. My bike easily made it across. I originally intended to ride into Steubenville and cross the Ohio river where I crossed it on my last trip, but Google suggested a more northern crossing and it worked well with the campground owner's suggestion for a relatively flat route (which is still pretty hilly around here) so I went for it.

Along the way I encountered a huge descent that got me up to 68km/h with the brakes on. It was a little scary because the road wound around a bit.

When I got to the Ohio river bridge it had clearly been closed for some time. It was overgrown and barbed wired. That's an unfortunate setback. The best route into Steubenville is the limited access highway. I didn't expect to do that at all this time, but it saved me nearly 10 km.

It felt good to enter my second state, but the climb in West Virginia was everything I remembered it to be. I barely conquered it last year and with my heavier belly, heavier packs, and less training, I couldn't quite make it this time. I pushed my bike up the second half of the climb, and still had to stop and pant for a few minutes at the top.

Hopping back on the panhandle trail felt nice because I knew there wouldn't be any more steep climbs for a while. However they had recently laid new gravel and at times it felt like riding on a beach. I moved along very slowly in second gear for a while thinking I must still be tired from the previous hills and the gravel, but then suddenly I was cruising along in fourth gear at 25km/h with little effort. A while later I was back to a brutally slow 18km/h (which, for comparison is how quickly I ran my highschool cross country PR). Perplexed I looked at the Google maps elevation profile and discover that the trail actually does have slight ups and downs, and although I couldn't see them I certainly felt them. I'll keep that in mind for the Great Allegheny Passage the next few days.

The last adventure was pushing my bike up a wooded incline to take the Montour trail toward Aaron's house instead of the hillier road that I was on. I wish I had done that last year too.

Today's distance: 112 km
Average speed: 21.0 km/h
Trip odometer: 328 km

Josh Orndorff Fri, 08/15/2014 - 20:57

Day 4 -- Cannonsburg PA to Ohiopyle PA -- On the trail

Day 4 -- Cannonsburg PA to Ohiopyle PA -- On the trail

I left Aaron's house and got on the road around 9:30. It still wasn't on time but I'm getting closer. Leaving the Pittsburgh suburbs wasn't as bad as many cities and the roads became country roads and then the Montour trail pretty quickly.

The elevation profile showed two big up and back down hills as I travelled the short distance from the Montour trail to the great Allegheny passage. The ride was going well enough and I was getting close enough to the trail that I started to think the hills didn't exist, but sure enough, there were two of them and they were big. I did manage to bike up them both this time though! It probably helped that I threw away some of the structural material from my saddle bags before leaving this morning in a conscious effort to lighten my packs.

I stopped for a milkshake and water right as I was getting on the big trail just west of West Newton.

The uphill shown in the trail's elevation profile had me scared that I would have a very hard climb ahead of me, but so far that has not been the case (even though there were a few times I thought I was dying just from the distance). I stayed in at least third gear the whole way down the trail today, so I'm looking forward to a relatively level journey into DC. I know the steepest part is still tomorrow so hopefully I didn't jinx it.

When I arrived in Ohiopyle I set out to find the natural water slide that I had heard about from uncle John when I stayed at his place. It was a short ride through a really happening recreation-based town. I watched a few people go while chatting with another couple who was visiting. They were quite friendly and took pictures for me as I went. The water was pretty cold, and although I sustained a slight ankle injury bashing my foot into a rock on the way down, it was totally fun and totally worth it.

After sliding I cleaned up in the free public showers, got some dinner at Grace's Wok, and started to think about where to stay for the night. The army corps of engineers had a campground for only eight dollars in Confluence which was only 17km down the trail, but I was already showered, and the campground didn't have electrical outlets to charge my phone, so I didn't really want to pay.

I decided to head in that direction and if a good spot to camp along the trail showed up I would stop (although I was still a little nervous about getting busted). I passed a few decent sites, and then came upon a large grassy field. I though about setting up there, but then saw some deer that just kept staring at me even as I moved around and that made me nervous. Not much farther down the trail was another more level grassy field with picnic tables and benches. It was even mowed. With a setup like that I figured it would be rude not to camp out.

I locked my bike to a bench and kind of screwed around as I started to make camp. Just then a guy on a bike rode by. I didn't make eye contact, but right after he passed he started talking. I was afraid he was reporting me to get busted. So after he left I moved my bike deeper into the woods and quickly finished setting up my tiny tent. In hindsight I have no idea why he would call me on rather than asking me to move himself, but hey, I was nervous.

In the morning I'll ride the last ~10km into Confluence refill on water, and conquer the rest of this climb before descending into Cumberland MD.

Omg, as I was finishing this post in my tiny tent, now after dark, another two people rode by on the trail and startled me. I don't think they noticed the tent :) I should probably be out of here before too many people pass by in the morning. Maybe that will help me get an earlier start.

Today's distance: 130 km
Average speed: 20.2 km/h
Trip odometer: 459 km

Josh Orndorff Sun, 08/17/2014 - 13:23

Day 5 -- Ohiopyle PA to Cumberland MD -- Crossing the divide (and the line)

Day 5 -- Ohiopyle PA to Cumberland MD -- Crossing the divide (and the line)

Even though I was camping out in a technically illegal spot, I still snoozed a few alarms this morning. I finally got up when raindrops started to fall. I quickly moved everything to the one bench in my clearing that had an overhang so I could pack up while staying dry. Between the rain and the sorer-than-expected ankle I wasn't in the best mood. But it got even worse when I was packing my tent into my saddle bags and one of them ripped open. Right across the top; a huge rip. The tent was in well enough that it wouldn't fall out so I left it and decided to think about it more later. I'll probably end up switching which side the tent and clothes go in and making these bags work until this trip ends in DC.

After the heavy rain subsided I got on the trail and rode 10km into Connellsburg where I filled my bottles at a restaurant and used the bathroom at a campground. Unfortunately I followed the wrong trail out of the campground and by the time I was on the right track again it was almost 10:00.

I stopped very briefly in a few towns for water or to let my butt rest, but with the drizzle it wasn't worth standing around or chatting too long. The climb was going smoothly and still didn't feel too strenuous although I did occasionally have to shift to second gear.

I stopped for lunch at subway in Meyersdale, the last city before the eastern continental divide. I scarfed down an entire foot-long while my phone charged and I slowly dried. But when I stepped outside to check on my bike it was sunny again. I stayed a little while longer figuring out some logistics about where I might spend the night and letting my phone charge. It was exciting and encouraging to go back out and ride in the sunshine.

As I was leaving the city, so was a train on the tracks that run almost parallel the path. I managed to keep up with it for over 8km. Eventually I made it to the continental divide and entered the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Although the climb wasn't that bad, the decent sure was nice. I stayed in fifth or sixth gear almost the entire time down.

The steep downhill, it seems, is more popular because there was a group of about 30 cyclists hanging out around (blocking) the trail at one point and about 20 more who has already taken off. They were casually biking so I passed by them one at a time and eventually overtook the lead group which was about five twentyish year old guys and one girl. When I stopped to take a picture of the Mason-Dixon line the lead group passed me again and a few minutes later I was caught back up with them. Just when I was almost close enough to warm them that I was passing, one of them in the middle wiped out big time. One kid swerved off into the brush to miss him, another skidded to a stop and a third just barely hit the fallen bike but not the kid. In the the extra second of reaction time that I had I managed to get in the grassy shoulder to get around him. He seemed okay despite some road rash so I pressed on.

The downhill was going so well I cruised right through Frostburg and didn't stop until Cumberland. The most promising campground, the YMCA, was closed so I got to the visitors' center and found out that there are a series of primitive but free camping areas along the second half of the trail including one just outside of town. I let my phone charge at a public outlet for a while, stopped by the grocery store, and headed out. The campsite seems fine albeit a bit lumpy/sticky, but free sticks are good sticks.

Two more basically level days until DC.

Today's distance: 128 km
Average speed: 20.2 km/h
Trip odometer: 587 km

Josh Orndorff Sun, 08/17/2014 - 20:17

Day 6 -- Cumberland MD to Harpers Ferry WV -- The longest day

Day 6 -- Cumberland MD to Harpers Ferry WV -- The longest day

Sleep was weird last night. I fell asleep immediately, but then lay awake from three to five in the morning. Luckily I woke up just after seven and got on the road just after eight. It was my earliest start yet.

I had a quick turkey cheese wrap with ingredients I bought the night before, but then ditched the rest of the meat and cheese because I was afraid they had gone bad over night, and my stummy already felt a little funny when I woke up.

Having camped with no electricity two nights in a row my phone was nearly dead before I even took off, so I immediately switched it to airplane mode and navigated with the paper map in the brochure I picked up the day before at the visitors' center. The map forgot to mention that the second part of this trail was a little rougher than the first. As one other cyclist put it, "it gets a little boney."

I didn't stop for more than a quick drink and map glance until the 90km mark in Hancock. There were a few cool things to keep my mind occupied on that first stretch including the paw paw tunnel (which just looks black in the pictures), but by the time I got to Hancock I figured it was time for some real food. I got to subway and scarfed down a sub and a Sprite, which I had been craving for a few hours, while my phone charged and I considered where I might go for the night.

The next 40 km brought me into Williamsport MD where I did little more than check the map and call some hotels. I decided to get a hotel so I could have an actual shower, and charged phone for my last day of navigating the city and coordinating plans. And because it might rain tomorrow and I hate packing up in the rain (I'm a girl and I don't want to play anymore).

I decided that if I wanted a hotel I needed to earn it, and it would be nice to have a short last day anyway, so I pressed on just over 50 km more into Harpers Ferry. As the sun got lower more bugs came out and they are super gross in the face. By the end it felt like I was in a sea of bugs.

But finally around 9:00 I rolled into the hotel and took a much needed shower. Because it was dark I wasn't able to stop anywhere for dinner but I found the door to the continental breakfast room unlocked and solved the dinner problem. Unfortunately they didn't have any disposable razors for me to use, so I may have beard tan lines for a few days... Embarrassing.

Today's distance: 186 km
Average speed: 19.9 km/h
Trip odometer: 773 km

Josh Orndorff Mon, 08/18/2014 - 22:58

Day 7 -- Harpers Ferry WV to Washington DC -- Finish line

Day 7 -- Harpers Ferry WV to Washington DC -- Finish line

After a big breakfast of sausage gravy, cereal, and a waffle, I hit the road at 9:30.

I was glad I went extra far yesterday so today could be shorter. I cruised along steadily and quickly. The big breakfast seemed to help. I never made a proper rest stop today; the longest rest was about five minutes to refill my bottles. I stayed in a higher gear today opting for forth or fifth instead of third, and sometimes shifting all the way up and riding standing up just to give my butt a rest. The change in cadence was nice and kept me moving quickly.

Google's directions had me navigate some city streets in the DC suburbs and being unfamiliar with the area I followed them, but later discovered that I should have stayed on the trail making navigation easier, and probably the journey shorter.

In any case I got into the city and picked up the keys to Erin and Michael's place at 2:45. I spent the afternoon uploading photos, doing laundry, and resting. Then in the evening I went down to the mall, wandered around a little bit, and went to dinner with my hosts.

I actually made it!

Today's distance: 105 km
Average speed: 21.5 km/h
Trip odometer: 878 km

Josh Orndorff Tue, 08/19/2014 - 22:55

Thanks and Statistics

Thanks and Statistics

Thanks
I want to start with a big thanks to everyone who helped out along the way. I definitely couldn't have done it without all of you.

  • My Parents*
  • Nghi Maggie "The Punk" Nguyen*
  • Uncle John
  • The owners and campers at A1 Twin Valley Campground
  • Aaron Goodman*
  • The guys at the Cumberland visitors' center who told me about the free campgrounds
  • All the people who gave me free water along the way
  • Erin Mischler and Michael "Duke" Sorry dude, I never got your last name
  • Everyone who followed along with the trip and encouraged me along the way*

*Congrats, you made the list last time too :)

Just like before, I tried to be pretty thorough about keeping trip data. The raw data is also available is you want to do your own analysis.

How far do you ride each day?

Distance summarized by day

Not as far as last time.

How fast do you typically ride?

Speed summarized by day

Not as fast either.

Where do you stay?

Lodging given by days and as percentage

Yay, fewer hotels!

How much does it cost

Daily expenses by category

A lot. But starting with better gear, camping more, and not buying a flight to the starting point helped a lot.

Josh Orndorff Sun, 08/31/2014 - 23:11