Category Archives: Bike

The New Biker Experience at Camp Tuscazoar

New biker

 

I bought a new bike! Meet Hellga, from Specialized.

Hellga

I’d been curious about fat bikes. Or rather “fat tire bikes” for some time. I wanted a bike to ride in the winter, on my back roads around here, when my hybrid bike is up on the trainer. I had done some reading, and decided to just bite the bullet, and buy a bike.

The fat tire experience is different than my hybrid bike. The tires do “float” over objects,  like gravel. I would have never even thought about taking my hybrid into one of our pastures to ride there.

I was excited to be off work Monday and I headed to Camp Tuscazoar at 8 am! I’ve blogged about many experiences at Camp Tuscazoar. There has been many improvements to the trails there over the last few years.

East Side Trails

East Side Trails Camp Tuscazoar

On the East Side of the camp, there are newly built mountain bike trails. These are for the beginner rider. I helped out in the spring doing some trail maintenance.

 

Skills and Thrills

The trails are very well marked and signed. I was going to stay away from the “Skills and Thrills” until I read the description. It was for the youth and total beginner! That’s me!

You start off with a downhill (gulp) but it levels out. The trail is wide and there are no big ups or downs.

At the skills section, you can ignore all the skills and just ride through. Or you can practice going over a log; rocks; hopping off a bridge, both wide and narrow; biking on a log. I did just the very basic skills. I hopped off the little bridge, rode the bridge with the little hill. I did not try anything like biking on a log or trying to go over two logs at the same time.

This route is about 0.6 miles long. I think I rode it about five times before I ventured to the next upgrade, Hilltop Trail.

Hilltop Trail

This had many more ups and downs than the Skills Trail! I used my brake quite a bit on this. I am a total newby mountain biker.

I rode this trail again, then decided to add the North Slope. This trail had big switchbacks and berms!  There was much braking on this trail. I had to hop off Hellga and push her in a few places. I don’t have gearing quite mastered yet for this new bike.

After this, I rode the Skills Trail again and called it a day. I was tired! Hopefully I won’t be too sore tomorrow. These are excellent mountain bike trails for a newby!

Final Thoughts on my First Bike Tour

My Final Thoughts on my First Bike Tour

Final Thoughts

Time to wrap up the adventure that was Co Gap Bike Tour 2017!

Overall, I enjoyed my tour. It was neat to see new areas. It was good to learn that I can do multi day physical activity.

 

Lessons learned from first bike tour

Know how to change a bike tire all by yourself. It will happen. No kind strangers will come by. It’s up to you. Make sure you have all the components to change a tire: spare inner tube, bike tire levers, hex key, tire pump, gloves.

Mile 174 C&O Towpath

Fixed Bike. Almost fixed bike. Wheel is not correct on axle..yet

Be comfortable being on your bike. I bought a touring saddle from Terry. I was pretty comfortable on the bike until Day Seven, I did develop some chafing on my rear. I think that was due to the big uphill on Day Five. I could have done a better job with application of butt cream.

What I was glad I carried

Carry enough calories and water. Know where you can next get water if possible. I didn’t carry water purification tablet or system, but that is a good option.

Bug Spray! I forgot it on Day One but was okay. I could have used some more on Day Four fixing my tire on the trail-I had sweated it all off.

Allergy medicine-I took an allergy tablet every morning. When you are in a different state or region, you don’t know what plants or pollen may affect you.

Music-I was glad to have both music and podcasts available for some of my riding. As soon as I hit the edge of Pittsburgh, I put it away, I needed to concentrate on riding.

Boombotix

Camera-or phone, something to take pictures with and record moments. I recorded small things on my Evernote app.  This helped me remember when I wrote my blog posts.

I was glad, on this first bike tour,to sleep inside every night. The first thing I would do at the hotel was grab something to eat, like a cheese snack, and then shower! I’m sure having the air conditioning to sleep in was more restful than sleeping in my tent on the ground.

Great Allegheny Passage Trail

On the other hand, I missed out on that bit of adventure of bike camping. But there will be more opportunities to bike camp, I’m planning on two short bike camping adventures before the end of the year.

 

Final Day of my First Bike Tour

Final Day

The final day of my first bike tour! It was an early morning start. We (my husband) wanted to finish and be out of Pittsburgh as quickly as possible. I would have preferred a much slower amble but oh well. We were awake at 530am, out of the hotel by 630am, and a meandering way back to Smithton.

Back to Smithton

Great Allegheny Passage Trail

I was set for these last miles to Pittsburgh. I chucked everything out of the pannier except the bike repair kit and food. No need to carry the lock or dry shirt, I was going to the end.

Great Allegheny Passage Trai

It was another very overcast early morning but still hot and humid.

Acid Waterfall

Acid Waterfall Great Allegheny Passage Trai

One of the iconic views on this section of the Great Allegheny Trail is the acid water waterfall, which is acid mine drainage from an old coal mine. The water here is acid and iron-rich, coming up to the surface from underground mines, staining the rocks rust-red. Acid mine drainage (AMD) is a major source of water pollution and the cause of extensive stream degradation
and environmental damage.

Mile 131 Great Allegheny Passage Trai

Road? What road section?

I leave the little Boston Trail head area, the trail winds downhill…onto a road. With no markers. I don’t remember reading about a road section…I can see a bike tire in a mud puddle, so I go in that direction. I finally see cyclists in the distance and then there is an actual official GAP mile marker, I’m still on the correct trail!

Great Allegheny Passage Trai

Great Allegheny Passage Trai

Riding in the City

I got off trail right thru McKeesport, but two nice runners pointed out the trail to me, it was parallel to the road I was biking.This little fortress is a hostel in McKeesport. I’m not sure if I would want to stop in McKeesport at night, but if your biking plans leave you no choice there is this hostel available.Mile 139 Great Allegheny Passage Trai

I biked through the areas of Duquesne, The Waterfront and Homestead. The signage is not great here, in fact I asked another biker if I was still on the GAP Trail.

My Friend Cam

My friend Cam lives in the Pittsburgh area. I was just starting across the Hot Metal Bridge when he showed up to bike the final miles with me. Not only did we bike across the Hot Metal Bridge, we crossed back over the river to go through the South Side and cross again, this time on the Fort Pitt Bridge!

Meanwhile, my poor husband was wondering where I was..

Final Miles

Cam helped me get the bike up for the “money shot”.

My husband Dennis who deserves much credit being my “batman“. He picked me up at the trail

head and then delivered me back to the trail head in the morning.  Since he came along, there was somewhere to sleep every night and air conditioning and showers!

Sock monkey and my bike. A successful journey on a bike. The first time I had done sustained activity, day after day.  It was a very cool ride and I am glad to say this first bike tour will not be my last one!

 

Penultimate Day of my CO GAP Bike Tour


GAP Trail Day Six

 

This was my Penultimate Day of my CO GAP Bike Tour.

Day Six Start Rockwood Great Allegheny Trail

Big Mileage Day

When I had looked over the daily mileage, it looked like I was going to bike 60 plus miles on the last day into Pittsburgh, from Connellsville to Pittsburgh, Mile 88 to Mile 150. That was a bunch of miles for my seventh day on the trail.

The Steelers were playing in  Pittsburgh that Sunday afternoon. My husband hates cities and Pittsburgh driving-the combination of mountains, tunnels and rivers does not make Pittsburg an easy driving city.

The original plan was to end at mile 88 and sleep in Connellsville. I decided to push on past that town to Mile 110 Smithton. This would make the last day in Pittsburgh much shorter.  It  would be tough to bike past my hotel-but oh well.  This would be mile 44 from Rockwood to Mile 110 in Smithton-big miles!

Smithton GAP Trail

This was Laurel Highlands Day! One of my favorite spots on the planet.

Heading on out the trail, it was another day of seeing almost no bikers in the first few miles. I knew that would change as I got to Ohiopyle State Park.

Casselman River

The Gap Trail follows the Casselman River as I biked toward Confluence,  very scenic views to see besides the green tunnel.

Casselman River

Confluence

I had never visited Confluence before. It was a quiet little town, very different than the rocking atmosphere found in Ohiopyle.

Leaving Confluence, I found Ohiopyle State Park begins right around Confluence. Then the steady stream of bikers began. You can rent bikes in probably six or seven bike locations in Ohiopyle. The stores must send them  all to the east, where the biker will be going on the slight uphill, meaning when they turn around, they can enjoy the slight downhill that I am enjoying.

Because I was born in 1966

 

Ohiopyle

Ohiopyle, my favorite trail town! It was packed, as to be expected on a Saturday.

 

Today I was dreaming of a hotdog for lunch. A chili cheese hotdog to be precise. I knew I could find it in Ohiopyle. While I would have loved to dine at the Falls City Pub for lunch, I knew the Falls Market was right off the trail, with good food and faster service than the pub.

 

It was not only a cheese hotdog, it had pulled pork instead of chili, and coleslaw on the top!

I had to take the obligatory picture of kayakers and rafters on the Yough as I biked over the river.

This Saturday was amazing. Nobody was biking on the western side going toward Connellsville. The few bikes I saw fell away very quickly in the distance.

Yough River Overlook

My favorite picture I took on the  entire trip, my sock monkey at the Yough Gorge overlook!

Connellsville

Mile 100! Less than 50 to go now!

I biked into Connelsville. We were staying at the Cobblestone Inn and Suite, a pricey hotel right on the trail. It’s brand new. It wasn’t a bad place to stay, the bed was very comfortable. The fixtures are brand new but very cheap, it’s not going to wear well. I wonder what the rooms will look like in one year.  There was also no light in the room other than a desk lamp on the desk. I had to take my bike into the hallway to check the air pressure.

Cobblestone Inn and Suites were very bike friendly I have to say. It was fine to take your bike in the room. Another biker had his dirty bike dripping in the lobby as he checked in.

Connelsville

The closer I am to finishing the daily miles the less pictures I take. It was cool to pass the 100 mile mark, but I was ready to be done with all these miles on the trail.

Smithton

I was happy to see my husband at the pavilion at Mile 108, not 110! It’s amazing what two less miles can do for your spirit.

Wow, tomorrow is my last day on the trail! I can’t wait to get going!

Day One C&O Towpath

Day Two C&O Towpath

Day Three C&O Towpath

Day Four Last Day on the C&O Towpath

Day Five Starting the Great Allegheny Passage Trail

Day Five of my CO GAP Bike Tour

Great Allegheny Passage Trail

The Start of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail

I slept horribly at the Fairfield  Inn and Suites but so did my husband so maybe it was just the mattress. I was concerned about the 24 mile uphill to the Eastern Continental Divide.

Great Allegheny Passage Trail

I exited the hotel. Humidity just slapped me in the face. Find Mile Zero and I’m off! 150 miles to go!

GAP Mile Zero

First two miles of  the Great Allegheny Passage Trail are flat. Yay, only 22 miles uphill!

 

Mile One Cumberland GAP

haze is real

Then the uphill begins.

It’s Not that Bad

The Railroad is not even 3% grade. As long as I biked beside the railroad  tracks it would be manageable. I thought about how far I have come. Great Allegheny Passage Trail A year ago, I would have been gasping in my granny gear, now I am pedaling along, in the middle gear, for 22 miles uphill! Who would have thought that?

Frostburg

Frostburg has a water fountain at the trail head.Hurray! I really didn’t want to ride up to the train depot although it was not very far up the hill.

Mile 5 GAP Trail

The trail seemed to get steeper past Frostburg. I just kept  up with the JRA ” just ride along” mantra. I played my music thru my little portable boombox and sang along.

Mason Dixon Line

I come to the Mason Dixon Line. The dividing line between Maryland and Pennsylvania, the symbolic divider of the North and South.

Big Savage Tunnel

 

Overlook at the Big Savage Tunnel. Overcast day, little views

I got to Big Savage Mountain Tunnel. It just seemed so “little” that  a train did cross through this tunnel!

It was foggy and cold. The cold and fog didn’t bother me, I just didn’t want a head on collision with bikers in the opposite direction. I had my bike light and small hand held light on. The tunnel is also lit.

Eastern Continental Divide

There is a slight last climb to the ECD of course. At least there are other bikers there to take my picture.

Eastern Continental Divide

I call to tell the husband I have made it to the ECD. He warns me of big thunderstorm heading my way. I check my phone. Yep, it looks like a big storm!

Somehow the storm goes around me. I’m stoked to be on a downslope now, and make one quick stop in Meyersdale for an ice cream sandwich.

before biking on to Rockwood. I’m a little leery of the “end of the day” flat tire, but I believe I’ve got the pebble out and flat tires should be a thing of the past.

Rockwood PA GAP TrailWhee! End of the first day on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail. Trail conditions are better on the GAP Trail.

Check out my previous day journal posts:

Day One C&O Towpath

Day Two C&O Towpath

Day Three C&O Towpath

Day Four Last Day on the C&O Towpath

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Day Four CO GAP Bike Tour

C&O Towpath Last Day

Last Day on the C&O Canal Towpath Trail

Day Four was my last day on the C&O Canal Towpath Trail.

My miles were shorter. I only had to go twenty four miles, from mile 160 to mile 184.5. I did not need to be in any hurry on this day.

Turtles

There was quite a bit of water in the canal. Turtles have become my new spirit animal. I just love to see the turtles sunning themselves on logs.  But the turtles were thwarting me. Every time I stopped for a photo op, they would slide off their log back into the water!

Campground and Water on the C&O Canal Trail

I wanted to mention the campgrounds and water available on the C&O Canal Trail. One great feature on the C&O Canal Towpath Trail are the free campgrounds, which are spaced out about every five miles. There is a port-a-potty and a water supply at each campground. There is a good sign that tells you how far to the next campground, which made it very easy to gauge whether I needed to refill on my water supply.

Campground Sign C&O Towpath

Huckleberry Hill C&O Towpath

Pump C&O Canal Towpath

 

Flat Number Three!

All was going well until around mile 173. My tire…was going flat. I stopped and pumped air. The gauge would not go above 40 PSI. I actually found the hole where the air was going out.

I did not want to change the tire. I put a plastic candy wrapper on the hole, then wrapped cloth athletic tape around it.  I biked a bit. This didn’t work. I was going to have to change the tire. On the trail.

Know how to change your tire. I have now changed my rear tire five times. It really hasn’t gotten that much easier. I can now get the flat tire off the rim much quicker.

If you are going on a bike tour, you need to know how to change a tire.

I got the tire off, and inner tube out. I knew where the hole was. Sitting on the side of the trail, I carefully looked inside the tire.  I inspected the entire outside tire. I knew where the hole was. But was the problem?

There, in a tread, was a little quartz pebble. Which I knew was the problem. This little quartz pebble was penetrating the inner tube. Since I had not removed the little pebble the day before, this was caused Flat #3.

Pebble removed. Inner tube installed. Now time to put wheel on bike and chain back on derailleur.

This took…quite some time. I had no cell phone signal on the trail and could not consult You Tube. I kept trying. I know it is very simple..but when you can’t get the chain on, and don’t know how to do it, and it’s 2 pm and hot and humid and sweat is pouring down your face,  it’s a big deal.

But I did it. It took me an hour to change the tire. (Which is not bad, my fastest time is 40 minutes in my driveway at home). I load the bike up with my stuff, and the rear wheel doesn’t move.

I still don’t have the rear axle aligned correctly. I take the pannier off the bike AGAIN, and fix this.

Mile 174 C&O Towpath

Now I can continue, my last ten miles on the C&O Trail!

I am so filthy. Triumphant but filthy.

It was cool, to see my first view of the mountains as I pedaled westward.

I’m so ready to be done. I’ve been dreaming about a gin and tonic for miles. I know the towpath trail comes out of the woods not far from mile 184.5. When  I see the iconic spires of Cumberland for the first time, I let out a WOOHOO! I am almost there. Almost done.

I have been less filthy finishing a 100 mile foot race and biking this section of trail. I am a mess.

A finish and straight off to the bike shop I go. My brakes have been messed up since Flat #2, meaning I haven’t had brakes that worked.  Flat #3 hasn’t changed that.  The Bike shop fixes my brakes-meaning they tell me I need new brake and install them.  I am good with that. Perhaps I will have a new bike by the end of this bike tour.

My gin and tonic taste amazing and we have oysters and crab cakes at The Crabby Pig in Cumberland. I have now completed the C&O Canal Trail, and it is on to the Great Allegheny Passage Trail in the morning!

Do you know how to change your flat with the kit you have available on your bike ride?

Day Three of my CO GAP Bike Tour

CO GAP Day Three

Williamsport Mile 100


 

I had a nice filling breakfast at the Waffle House. I lucked out leaving Williamsport on Wednesday. The Conococheague Aqueduct construction was beginning on Thursday! I avoided one detour.

C&O Canal Towpath

Today would be a shorter day, since I was going to be extracted at Little Orleans, Maryland, and avoid the Paw Paw tunnel detour. It was back to the green tunnel.

Fort Frederick Mile 112

I had planned on taking the Western Maryland Rail Trail. This asphalt trail runs parallel to the C&O Towpath Trail. The map was handy. I biked through the Fort, then took a left on Big Pool Road, and the Western Maryland Rail Trail would be down the road about a half mile.

I found it! It was a welcome change to get off the mud puddles of the C&O Towpath, and just cruise on asphalt. I didn’t have to watch out for mud, I could sit up, I could just cruise and go! It was a bit noisy, as much of it was along a highway.

Perhaps I missed some sites on the C&O Towpath, but I was happy to just make miles down the trail.

Back to the C&O Canal Towpath Trail

Flat Number Two, also at end of my day!

When I exited the Maryland Rail Trail back to C&O Canal Towpath, I literally had about one mile to go. I could tell I was getting a flat. I pumped some air into the tire and tried to ride a bit more. I got a little ways down the trail.  Then I believed I pushed the bike about a half mile to where my husband was waiting.  I had another flat, but I was going to deal with that once we got to Paw Paw, West Virginia, where the B&B was.

Simon

My husband had picked up Simon, who was from Wales, and biking westward through the US. My husband had warned him about the Paw Paw Tunnel detour and asked if Simon was in shape. Simon said “no, I am not!!” so my husband offered him a ride around the detour, since we were all heading that way!

WrenWood Inn B&B

I fixed my flat in the shade of the Wrenwood Inn B&B, while drinking a beer. Once that was finally done, we headed across the street to Ellie’s Ice Cream, to get a sub sandwich for dinner. We spent a relaxing evening with Simon and a few others, drinking wine and beer and chatting.

Wrenwood Inn B&B

Carol had a lovely breakfast for us in the morning. It was 930 am before I was off for the day, my latest start!

Paw Paw West Virginia

Paw Paw Tunnel

The Paw Paw Tunnel is closed for a scaling project. This is where they remove all the loose shale and rock so it doesn’t come down as a landslide, like this:

Here’s what the Paw Paw Tunnel looks like:

My husband extracted me at Little Orleans, Maryland, and I avoided the entire detour. Sometimes it’s good to fast forward through a section!