Author Topic: GAP/C&O Canal - Alternative Roadway Routes  (Read 3562 times)

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Offline RangerTom

GAP/C&O Canal - Alternative Roadway Routes
« on: September 02, 2012, 10:12:47 am »
Hi Fellow Cyclists,

We are working on final planning for an October GAP/C&O Canal ride (west to east). We are hoping to locate a few roadway route options along segments of the C&O. Why the options? We'd like to have an opportunity to see some of the countryside and areas where people live away from the river canyon. Additionally, we will be on a road tandem and were concerned about how well it (and we!) will handle rougher trail surface conditions, particularly if we run into a lot of wet weather. We have thousands of road miles on the tandem but  little time on dirt or gravel.  We could use any advice from anyone familiar with the area.

The tandem will be set up with largest tires I can fit under the fenders - 700/32 front tires and it looks like I'll have at least 37mm squeezed in the rear. We've had a chance to ride a 10 mile stretch of the GAP near Connellsville on a rental fat tire tandem, the trail surface there seemed like it would work out OK for our road tandem; blogs and other sources also seemed to indicate the GAP surface would be pretty do-able for us. The C&O sounds like it might be more likely to provide some tougher conditions. We did do rental tandem (wide tires again) out of Cumberland to investigate about a 10 mile stretch of C&O - pretty good surface along there.  Ditto on a rental ride out of DC, mostly on the paved Capital Crescent and then towpath dirt to  around  somewhere maybe called Glen Echo.

We get the feeling there's not much in the way of "easyish" roadway cycling routes in the area of the C&O - seems no shoulders/narrow roads,  short sight-lines, high traffic volumes, grinding steep grades make up much of what we have ferreted out with on-line resources so far. There are a couple areas that looked initially possible however, and we hope someone out there can provide some feedback.

#1  Hancock to Williamsport

   Big Pool Road(Hywy 56) and Clearspring Road (Hywy 68). This initially looked ok on Google Map terrain view and Mapmyride - further investigation with street view and the State of Maryland Highway department "Bicycle Level of Comfort" map (http://roads.maryland.gov/oppen/bloc_washington.pdf)  was maybe not so good. Though not too hilly, and what looks like beautiful countryside, the State gives it what appears poor ratings for bicycle use on the eastern part of Big Pool and along Clearspring. It does look like riding Big Pool east to Hassett and then 4 Locks Road back down to the C&O might be ok and a worthwhile option. Anyone out there familiar with this area? We do have the rail trail (Western Maryland RR) in the plans for this area.

#2  Williamsport to Antietam

   It looks like there may be a number of options along here. Perhaps Lappens Road (Hywy 68), Downsville Pike (632), Spielman and Bakersville Road (63?), Sharpsburg Pike (65), then Harpers Ferry Road south to what appears to be an access back onto the C&O near Antietam (town and creek).  How about Lappens directly to Sharpsburg Pike, or maybe other little roads in that area?
Any other alternates between Cumberland and DC? We have lodging locked in already so wouldn't be able to stray too far off the C&O corridor.  Also, we are looking at this from the perspective of a group of six with ages getting close to sixty (not super strong) ,  some of the group with past multi-day touring experience but just getting back to riding regularly - and others whom are somewhat newer to biking. We do ride some hills in the lower Sierra Nevada foothills, but we seldom encounter the rather severe grades that the eastern mountains seem to occasionally provide for its roadways.  We have, by the way, put the WOD rail trail (Leesburg to DC)  on the optional list - will see if we feel like we have gotten too beat up by the C&O surface at that point, or if we need some relief from what others have described as  the "green  tunnel "  effect along  the river.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide, and we are really looking forward to the trip

Tom

« Last Edit: September 05, 2012, 04:09:10 pm by RangerTom »

Offline briwasson

Re: GAP/C&O Canal - Alternative Roadway Routes
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2012, 03:19:17 pm »
We rode part of the GAP on our triplet (three-seat tandem) with panniers last year, from Ohiopyle to Cumberland. We were fine with 700x35 tires front/rear. Since a triplet is generally much heavier that a tandem, you should be fine on the GAP from our experience. We did have some wet weather on the trip, but not heavy rains. We did notice the triplet sinking a bit more into the trail surface after a rain, but it wasn't too bad. Plus, I'm sure you will be a lot lighter then we were (loaded with all of us I'm guessing we were over 550 pounds between bike, people and bags).

I've also ridden the GAP and C&O on my single bike with 26x1.25 inch road tires (approximately 35mm) and it was also fine.

On my C&O ride, I detoured off the towpath several times just for variety and to see some of the area beyond the "green tunnel" of the towpath. I detailed them on my trip report on the Crazy Guy site at http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/cando-tour. My GAP trip report is also linked from there; see http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/briwasson

Beware that the surrounding countryside of both the GAP and C&O can be very hilly, especially around the GAP.

Offline RangerTom

Re: GAP/C&O Canal - Alternative Roadway Routes
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2012, 01:15:26 am »
Thanks for the info Brian. The info and links were quite helpful.  I just realized that half my "post" had not quite made the board (too long perhaps?) Here's the rest.

#1  Hancock to Williamsport

   Big Pool Road(Hywy 56) and Clearspring Road (Hywy 68). This initially looked ok on Google Map terrain view and Mapmyride - further investigation with street view and the State of Maryland Highway department "Bicycle Level of Comfort" map (http://roads.maryland.gov/oppen/bloc_washington.pdf)  was maybe not so good. Though not too hilly, and what looks like beautiful countryside, the State gives it what appears poor ratings for bicycle use on the eastern part of Big Pool and along Clearspring. It does look like riding Big Pool east to Hassett and then 4 Locks Road back down to the C&O might be ok and a worthwhile option. Anyone out there familiar with this area? We do have the rail trail (Western Maryland RR) in the plans for this area.

#2  Williamsport to Antietam

   It looks like there may be a number of options along here. Perhaps Lappens Road (Hywy 68), Downsville Pike (632), Spielman and Bakersville Road (63?), Sharpsburg Pike (65), then Harpers Ferry Road south to what appears to be an access back onto the C&O near Antietam (town and creek).  How about Lappens directly to Sharpsburg Pike, or maybe other little roads in that area?
Any other alternates between Cumberland and DC? We have lodging locked in already so wouldn't be able to stray too far off the C&O corridor.  Also, we are looking at this from the perspective of a group of six with ages getting close to sixty (not super strong) ,  some of the group with past multi-day touring experience but just getting back to riding regularly - and others whom are somewhat newer to biking. We do ride some hills in the lower Sierra Nevada foothills, but we seldom encounter the rather severe grades that the eastern mountains seem to occasionally provide for its roadways.  We have, by the way, put the WOD rail trail (Leesburg to DC)  on the optional list - will see if we feel like we have gotten too beat up by the C&O surface at that point, or if we need some relief from what others have described as  the "green  tunnel "  effect along  the river.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide, and we are really looking forward to the trip

Tom
« Last Edit: September 05, 2012, 11:37:12 am by jsieber »

Offline RangerTom

Re: GAP/C&O Canal - Alternative Roadway Routes
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2012, 01:32:56 am »
Hmmmm..   :o   I had a couple more short paragraphs - they seem to be getting consumed somewhere on the way to the board. Stand by for further attempts - sometime tomorrow.  Thanks, Tom

Offline Fred Hiltz

Re: GAP/C&O Canal - Alternative Roadway Routes
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2012, 07:09:46 am »
The problem is in your hypertext. The rest of the message is there, but everything following the hyperlink does not show. You can edit your post to make a real hyperlink element. Select the URL, then click the Insert Hyperlink icon: the second icon in the second row. Preview the result. It should be good.

Fred

Offline RangerTom

Re: GAP/C&O Canal - Alternative Roadway Routes
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2012, 04:12:38 pm »
Thanks very much for the help Fred...   the orginal post has been modified to show the complete text.   Tom   :D

Offline briwasson

Re: GAP/C&O Canal - Alternative Roadway Routes
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2012, 05:00:24 pm »
If you are staying in Leesburg one night, then taking the W&OD path would certainly be an option worth considering. The two times I've ridden on the C&O, the section from Whites Ferry to Great Falls has had some of the worst trail conditions of the entire trail. But, the W&OD will add extra miles to the route compared with riding the C&O. It's mitigated by the fact that it is paved the entire way. We did a short tour one Memorial Day weekend a few years back where we parked at Great Falls, rode to Leesburg via the C&O, stayed the night there, and rode back via the W&OD.

BTW, we had a very good experience staying at the Best Western in Leesburg on that trip. We stayed for two nights and they were very accommodating (pardon the pun), allowing us to store our tandem and Burley child trailer inside in an empty conference room.

I assume you saw my mapped on-road route from Williamsport to Antietam on my trip report?

Offline RangerTom

Re: GAP/C&O Canal - Alternative Roadway Routes
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2012, 12:45:56 am »
Brian   I was lucky to have seen your Crazyguy posts early on in our dreaming-to-planning process, it was inspirational and educational. Hopefully we'll have an easier time finding the "#3 with the side of hash browns" or facsimile!  I believe we will be following your same road route out of Williamsport through Antietam and on to Harpers Ferry (back onto the C&O near Antietam Creek if I remember correctly.

thanks again for the info  -  were heading east to hit the trail this week!

Thanks, Tom

Offline Tandem Tom

Re: GAP/C&O Canal - Alternative Roadway Routes
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2012, 09:53:10 am »
Would anyone have the route,maybe RideWithGPS, through Pittsburgh and connecting with the GAP?
I am planning on leaving from the Amtrak Station in a few weeks.
Thanks!

Offline briwasson

Re: GAP/C&O Canal - Alternative Roadway Routes
« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2012, 11:13:45 am »
RangerTom, as an FYI, the main C&O route out of Williamsport is now fully open and no detour is necessary. However, I still think the on-road route to Antietam is worth taking, as it's a pretty ride and offers some nice variety from the towpath.

You should have some nice foliage this time of year. Enjoy the ride!

Offline dayjack119

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Re: GAP/C&O Canal - Alternative Roadway Routes
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2012, 05:50:11 pm »
A friend and I traversed the entire route, west-to-east last year.  Any bike will make it on the GAP, a totally smooth and graded surface.  The C&O is a bit rougher, no grading and just level twin road ruts in some areas.  But we blasted the canal trail for a couple of days of Hurricane Irene's torrential rains and wind without problem.  If I can do it at 67, you shouldn't have a concern.  My friend had a Long Haul Trucker and my bike had 700 / 23 tires.  No sweat, the puddles were not too deep nor was mud an issue.  ...There are more parallel roads on the C&O than the GAP.
Carry lights for Paw Paw Tunnel.  One mile long and super creepy.

Offline AdventureRide

Re: GAP/C&O Canal - Alternative Roadway Routes
« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2012, 06:52:09 pm »
My wife and I did the GAP/C&O on our tandem a couple of years ago.  Had 37mm slicks for tires and did just fine, although a tire with a little tread and some side knobs would have been appreciated in sections of the C&O.  The C&O's conditions certainly did improve my bike handling skills (even after 50K+ miles of tandeming!!).  You'll have a great trip.  Just keep it relaxed when you hit those mud puddles.