Another great bike trip down to Norfolk!
– The temps were pretty high the last six days of the ride — four days in the 100s, the other two with highs in the 90s — but hydrating and keeping up electrolytes really helped, so I felt great. Having a hydration pack is the key for me, it makes sure I drink very often. The electolyte tabs I use (Camelbak Elixir) are just the right taste to keep me drinking. Having water available along the 130 miles of the C&O Canal Towpath really helped, but I was also very good about refilling when I was on the road, even adding an extra 32 ounce bottle to my water supply (which was the 64 ounce hydration pack plus two 20 ounce water bottles), for a total of 1 gallon plus 8 ounces. It added about 8 pounds to my total carried weight but well worth it.
– The heat wasn’t really that bad, even though it was in the 90s and 100s; as long as you keep moving on a bike you get at least a bit of a breeze. It’s when you stop that it gets hot. Plus the asphalt really does radiate heat. My thermometer read 106 at one point, and the heat coming up from the pavement felt like being in an oven so I think it was accurate. But I just kept on moving.
– The roads were with very few exceptions great. The few exceptions were a couple highway segments that were probably unavoidable and at least had decent shoulders; and the road around Quantico, again unavoidable if I wanted to get to Fredericksburg.
– The trails I rode were nice alternatives to the roads. The Pine Creek and Lower Trails in Pennsylvania were very nice, not paved but great surfaces. The C&O was kind of rough up until the PawPaw Tunnel, my first 30 miles, then got a bit better for the remaining 100 miles. I’m not sure I’d ride that much of the canal towpath again. The paved Western Maryland Trail and Washington and Old Dominion Trail were great, especially the WODT which cut through a lot of suburban sprawl. I rode about 240 miles on these trails, almost 1/3 of the total mileage.
– I’m glad I took my upright bike for the most part. There were enough areas where I wouldn’t have felt comfortable on a recumbent — though no climbs — that the upright was the right bike. I can’t imagine having to carry my recumbent over all the downed trees that I dealt with on the C&O; and it would have been a challenge carrying it up the spiral staircase to Harpers Ferry. On the other hand, given some of the saddle discomfort on this ride, I really appreciate the comfort of the recumbent seat…
– I never had any problem with car drivers, they all gave me wide berth even on roads without shoulders, slowed behind me on curving roads, I never got honked at or any other signs of aggression. Not sure what’s happened to all the rednecks…
- My legs felt great the entire time, never felt exhausted or drained; I’ve put more miles and lots of hill climbing in this year so far and that really helped. Also I consciously took it easy so I didn’t burn out early, and also made sure to eat at least every 20 miles or so to keep from bonking.
– It was cool riding door to door — in the past Lisa has picked me up at the start of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a 25 mile long unbikeable stretch.
- Washing my biking clothes in the sink worked real well, wringing out and then laying on dry towels, rolling and wringing again, then hanging overnight gave me dry clothes almost without exception — another nice thing about hotel rooms. The few times my biking shorts were still damp I clipped them to the top of my rack bag and they were dry within a few hours.
– Doing this as a credit card tour — staying in hotels — was good, especially given the heat and my tight schedule, not to mention the huge storm Friday night. I do like to camp and maybe in the future when I have a less restricted schedule I’ll do another camping tour. But I have to say having less weight on the bike is nice.
- Speaking of weight, I was carrying about 25 pounds in my panniers, plus 8 pounds of water when I was fully loaded up. I could probably try to get the weight down but I have to say it didn’t seem overly heavy, it did slow me down on hills but I never felt like it was too much — and it’s a lot less than the guy I just read about who was touring with his dog and 400 pounds (!!!) of gear on his bike and trailer! In terms of my own weight, I pretty much maintained my pre-trip weight, despite all the cycling. I was very good about carb-loading and refueling at all meals, so I didn’t expect to lose any pounds.
- I loved discovering little bakeries and restaurants on the way. I did eat at chains and big places, but when you find a cool little place with excellent food in the middle of nowhere it somehow gives you renewed faith in humanity.
– Lessons learned — don’t plan a 100+ mile day for a route that has a cue sheet of 4 pages…
– Next summer: maybe down to Norfolk via the Delaware River, Philly, Baltimore, DC; maybe riding from St Paul MN (where Lucas starts college in the fall) to Ithaca via Michigan’s upper peninsula and Ontario. We’ll see.