Author Topic: East Coast Greenway  (Read 5685 times)

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Offline John Grossbohlin

East Coast Greenway
« on: July 25, 2013, 08:44:49 pm »
In the past couple of weeks I've reported a couple problems to the ECG trail coordinator. The first one involved the US 17 crossing of the St Marys River at the FL/GA border. They have published cue sheet and E-News items about this in recent days.

The second issue is that much of the West Ashley Greenway, which runs into Charleston, SC and parallels US 17 is torn up for water (or sewer??) work. US 17 is a nightmare in that area... 6-7 lanes wide, no shoulder and curbs along with heavy traffic. ECG advises that a detour will be worked out in coming days and cue sheets posted.

The trail is scheduled to reopen in a couple days but considering the torn up section is miles long, and they were digging with a large excavator as recently as yesterday, I doubt it will be rideable by then.

Offline Wuwei

Re: East Coast Greenway
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2013, 01:00:10 pm »
Isn't this trail a long way off from being a viable route along the East Coast? I'm planning to connect the TransAm with the ACA Atlantic Coast Route to get to Ridgeland, SC, and am exploring options.

Thanks for your update.

Offline John Grossbohlin

Re: East Coast Greenway
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2013, 09:45:42 pm »
I guess it depends upon how you define viable... the ECG maps and cue sheets are not packaged up as neat and tidy as the ACA map sets but the information is on the web for free and folks are working hard to keep the information current and refine the routes as off-road options are developed.

That said, I'd be inclined to pick up 301 and 15 and shadow I-95 down to Ridgeland. I rode that route on my FL to NY trip in the past and it was fine. The roads were lightly traveled as I-95 took most of the traffic and being close to I-95 you can find services.  In comparison, US 17 was pretty nasty in many areas due to construction.

If you happen to be riding the east coast in the summer beware of lodging prices and availability along the coast. Both are presenting enough issues that I'm moving towards 301 now to continue north and then cutting over to the Jamestown - Scotland Ferry to visit Jamestown / Williamsburg / Yorktown VA.  The ACA and ECG routes seem to be expensive ways to go in the summer tourist season!

Offline Wuwei

Re: East Coast Greenway
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2013, 11:14:40 pm »
Thank you for the advice, John. I'll certainly look into the route you recommended.

Offline Elmo

Re: East Coast Greenway
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2013, 08:52:31 pm »
Hi guys,
At the moment im planning on jumping on the ECG and traveling the full distance down country. Do you think its best for me to go as i have planned or should i invest in all the ACA maps, for a safer journey?
Also are there any points where i might find myself racing to a campsite before the sun goes down or are they quite frequently spread close to the route?

Thanks a lot


Offline John Grossbohlin

Re: East Coast Greenway
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2013, 10:17:22 pm »
Well... In my experience, and from what I've heard from others, the ACA route along the east coast often takes you through rural areas and areas of nothingness with gaps in services.  The ECG, on the other hand, tends to run you through more urban areas using off-road and bike lane routes where possible.

If you are looking to do the trip in the summer months the coast is very busy... and expensive. I did some on-line checking of campgrounds and a KOA near Myrtle Beach was, as I recall, about $48/night for a tent site! If you hang near the coast try to make reservations as rooms and camp sites seem to be full, especially Thursday through Sunday. Compare that to a Motel 6 along I-95 for $35 with the AAA (or maybe it was AARP) discount. In Savannah if it were not for a road angel who let us use his guest house we would have been in trouble. This as every hotel/motel I checked was full and I didn't find any campgrounds.

My son and I found US 301 through NC to be a great route last week. The only area traffic was at all congested was near Wilson. Most of the way there were fine shoulders, no buzz bars and little traffic. Due to it's proximity to I-95 short detours from US 301 will take you to food and lodging with no problem if you happen to be in a lightly populated area along US 301. I noticed that access to services is better now than what I experienced in 1986 as I-95 has matured since then.

I've also noticed that between 1986 and now that there are a lot fewer campgrounds and many of those that exist don't have specific tent sites. Stealth camping along the coast would seem to be problematic due to the density of development... but I guess it depends upon how much nerve you have!

We have the ACA maps, the ECG maps via the web, and AAA state maps. The AAA maps seem to have had the most use as the rural vs urban issues, access to services, route interruptions, and the congestion issues we've faced drove us from the ACA and ECG routes. We used part of one ACA map thus far... and a section of the ECG route but have mostly used our own course north.

I think that the season you take your trip will influence your experience. In 1986 I started in FL in the winter and rode north into the spring. It was cold at times but the tourist areas were often empty and prices were cheap! On this trip a dive motel in a crap town about 50 miles from Myrtle Beach was $102 and the few chains in the town were a lot more expensive than that... no campgrounds were found.

In my opinion, the AAA state maps are about all you really need on the east coast if you learn to read them. The different types of road codes and the degree of meandering give you a very good idea of what you will encounter. Combined with a smartphone it's pretty easy to figure out what kinds of services will be available along the way too. But that's me... how comfortable you are with bushwhacking your own route should be a deciding factor here.

Also, along different segments of the coast one route may have advantages over the other. If money isn't a huge problem maybe study the ECG, ACA, and AAA maps and the fee version of Map My Ride and get a feel for the roads. With the Map My Ride fly over feature you can plot a route and then fly over it to see what the road is like... bike lanes, buzz bars, etc. can be seen on the fly overs.

Offline Elmo

Re: East Coast Greenway
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2013, 11:43:13 pm »
That is some excelent insight youve shared, thanks a lot.
I guess ill really have to plan where im staying and how far i have to go untill i reach my next site for the night. I respect the fact that the ECG tends to stick to the coast but being as i am not from America im quite interested in some of the sights i will be passing following this route.
My main concern is finding myself on a busy dangerouse road in the middle of the night looking for somewhere to sleep. I dont plan to stay in the cities long, hopefully camp on the outskirts on one side then from morning untill eavning travel through and stay at another site on the oposite outskirt. As i said im not American, im actually English and im not really sure what to expect between cities in regard to landscapes, will it be full of fields where stelth camping wont be an issue? Something i will have to look into.

Thanks again and ill be sure to try out the US 301 as i travel down NC.

Offline indyfabz

Re: East Coast Greenway
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2013, 07:56:36 pm »
Well... In my experience, and from what I've heard from others, the ACA route along the east coast often takes you through rural areas and areas of nothingness with gaps in services.  The ECG, on the other hand, tends to run you through more urban areas using off-road and bike lane routes where possible.

There are sufficient services on the ACA route down through at least Philly. The ECG in Pennsylvania is mostly a dream. Very little of it is on trails, and the bike lanes often make great parking spaces in the northeast section of Philly. I certainly would not ride it for traffic and other reasons. The section south of Philly through Chester, PA into Delaware is particularly unappealing.

Offline John Grossbohlin

Re: East Coast Greenway
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2013, 09:13:27 pm »
I use the various mapped routes as a guide and am not afraid to deviate from them... from one section of a route to the next the routes may be great or they may be troublesome. In the more remote areas I've found that it is not uncommon for stores, campgrounds, etc. to have gone out of business or changed names. On the Transam where there are big gaps in services we had problems a couple times when sources of food or shelter were gone or temporarily closed and we had to improvise.  In more urban areas construction and traffic can change your route for you.

"It is what it is" is the mindset to take with you! What a local may consider to be a great route can be annoying to an outsider due to myriad turns that require constant referral to the maps. On the other hand, routes locals consider to be bad can sometimes be better for long distance cyclists who need services a local rider doesn't.

Also, you can almost never trust an auto driver whom doesn't cycle as they don't understand the needs of the cyclist nor do they really know the distance to anything. I recall talking to the mayor of a town who was also a real estate agent, i.e., someone who should known the area, and he was off on distance by a factor of 3. I rode through the Manassas battlefield at night on a new moon as a result... actually I walked as I couldn't see and I kept going off the road. I finally found a place with lights and waited until someone with a PU truck came along to give me a ride to a campground.

If you are not from the U.S. I'd suggest having all the routes and maps and get a feel for the various route conditions by using Google Earth or Map My Ride flyovers. I'd be prepared for hotels, motels, hostels, campgrounds, Warm Showers and stealth camping as the opportunities present themselves. Don't rule out invitations to stay in people's homes, churches, etc. as it has happened on my major trips a number of times. On the current trip we were invited to use a guest house and a vehicle so we could visit historical sites in a heavily congested urban area!

That said, we all can put up with just about anything for a few days until better conditions come along! Don't let a few stressful situations define your trip!

Offline Elmo

Re: East Coast Greenway
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2013, 11:39:42 pm »
Thanks a lot for your advice guys. I notice the ACA route through Philly is quite far inland. Could you recommend a route from NY city,leading to 'route 94' before the delaware river gap. Maybe something that joins before Blairstown even?
From there i could stay on the ACA untill dropping into DC maybe? Thanks again.
Any other quieter yet feasible routes heading south that you might be able to reccoment would be greatly appreciated.

« Last Edit: August 12, 2013, 03:37:24 am by Elmo »

Offline indyfabz

Re: East Coast Greenway
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2013, 01:57:55 pm »
There are not too many ways into the DWG from the southeast. You can get there a couple ways from U.S. 206/CR 521. One is Tuttles Corner-Dingmans Rd. (CR 560) or you can start at the very north end of the DWG National Recreation Area at Old Mine Rd. where it intersects U.S. 206. CR 560 and U.S. 206 can be very busy at times. (Google Maps shows a Bevans Rd. coming off U.S. 206/CR 521. I believe that road is not really there anymore.) The only other way over the ridge and into the DWG is via Millbrook Rd. off SR 94 at Blairstown. That's a nice, multi-mile climb with a few very steep parts before a screaming downhill to Old Mine Rd. at Millbrook Village. At that point, you only have about 9 miles down Old Mine Rd. until you hit the pedestrian walkway along I-80 into Delaware Water Gap, PA. In other words, you don't get to ride much (or the nicest part) of the national recreation area if you enter via Millbrook Rd.

Also understand that the only way you can actually ride into NJ from Manhattan is via the George Washington Bridge, which is up north. Otherwise, you have to take a train or the ferry. Navigating the extremely developed and in many places industrialized area of NJ just west of NYC (e.g., Newark, the Oranges) can be extremely tricky and unpleasant..

If you really want to ride through the DWG National Recreation Area, I would take the train at least part of the way into NJ or NY. For example, you can take the PATH train or ferry (the latter is a nice ride) from Manhattan to Hoboken, NJ and catch the Port Jervis line to Port Jervis and pick up the ACA route there. Or you can get off earlier at Middletown, NY and ride down U.S. 6 to Port Jervis. Or you can take some lesser roads from Middletown through Otisville and then ride down U.S. 209 to Port Jervis. The train ride eventually becomes pretty scenic once it gets into the countryside. It crosses the Moodna Viaduct, which the longest and highest rail bridge east of the Mississippi River.

If you are dead set on riding from NYC itself, there are a few state bike routes that you can combine to get to Middletown and, I believe, Port Jervis.

The ACA route has a spur that utilizes train service to Summit, but it takes you pretty straight into Lambertvile, NJ which is way south of the DWG and misses the fabulous stretch down the Delaware River.

Offline John Grossbohlin

Re: East Coast Greenway
« Reply #11 on: August 16, 2013, 09:31:25 pm »
My desired path through PA has taken me much further west than either the ACA or ECG routes so I am afraid I can offer no first hand experience for more eastern alternatives.

On my first trip up from FL I went up the west side of the DWG on Route 209 from south of East Stroudsburg and I stayed on Route 209 all the way to Hurley, NY.

This time we are undecided about which side of the DWG we are going to use. We're in Gettysburg now and from here we will be heading east through Lancaster on our way to Valley Forge. From Valley Forge we are heading north up the west side of the Hudson River.

I think it is worth repeating that I've found the subscription version of Map My Ride to be a great planning tool. You can try routes out on the computer and do flyovers. Once you settle on a route you can then look at your route on your smartphone while you are traveling. If you use the GPS on the Map My Ride phone app you can also follow your progress. I've used the flyover feature to figure out if roads had bike lanes or trails or shoulders. 

Offline Elmo

What a roller-coaster!
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2013, 11:45:17 pm »
Great advice guys, thanks!

Ill be crossing the border of north and south carolina in a few days, iv been following the 301 for a day or two and its been good. Im thinking of joining the 15 at santee then onto the 17 at waltboro and continue on the 17 for a while. Does anyone have experience with these routes? Are they doable? Id like to get closer to the coast for a few days as i feel like iv been doing circles in the same surroundings for a week haha

Thanks again.

And you were right about most things. Prepare for being stuck in the middle of nowhere, sunburn, dirty clothes, no water fixing punctures that wont stick over and over again, but dont let it get to you as the roller-coaster can only go up from here. And goes very high up after! Absolutely loving it!! ;D

Offline John Grossbohlin

Re: East Coast Greenway
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2013, 09:34:06 am »
I rode a long stretch of US 15 years ago and it was good then. I'd assume it would still be pretty good as, like with US 301 in NC, I-95 takes most of the N/S traffic through that part of SC.

I'm not much of a fan of US 17 in SC... My son and I rode from Yamassee, SC to Charleston two months ago and took the section of 17 you are considering. It was not a very good ride at times... there was a section of road work 14 miles long. Both directions of travel ended up on what would normally be the southbound lanes. When we got to the rail trail going into Charleston the trail was closed due to construction. The section of 17 going into Charleston was a miserable piece of road. As I recall it was typically 6-7 lanes wide with curbs, no shoulder and a lot of traffic.
Perhaps the road work is done, and the rail trail should be reopened by now based on the signage, so perhaps it would be OK now.

One issue in that part of the SC is getting across the Edisto River. There are  not many crossings and if you are heading to the coast from Walterboro 17 is pretty much the option....

Another stretch of 17 heading into Savannah was a bit better and that route is used by the East Coast Greenway as the preferred route.

Phyl and her husband Neil, a couple we met in Williamsburg, VA who were southbound, didn't care much for the stretch of 17 they rode in northern SC either. They did however take it into Myrtle Beach, SC.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2013, 09:37:04 am by John Grossbohlin »