Author Topic: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio  (Read 3974 times)

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Offline whitebirch

West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« on: November 24, 2015, 05:10:20 pm »
Hi everyone,

I'm planning an E-W cross-country ride with my wife and then 10-year old daughter in spring/summer 2017. Overall route is Delaware to Seattle. My daughter will be on her own bike, but can hook up to mine in high traffic or hilly areas.

We'll be going from DC to Pittsburgh on the C&O and GAP. From Pittsburgh, next major destination will be Holmes County, Ohio. Probably Millersburg, where we'll pick up the Ohio to Erie / Underground Railroad route heading towards Cincinatti.

So my question is, what's the best way out of Pittsburgh to the West, aiming for Holmes County? I think the obvious crossing of the Ohio River would be in Steubenville, not further down in Wheeling or further up in Lawrenceville / East Liverpool.

Here's how Google maps in bicycle mode sends us: https://goo.gl/maps/erYM6Y74UaU2. Across the Allegheny to some bike trails, then across the West End Bridge and up Steuben St., to Rte 60 (Lincoln Highway) and then Rte 50 (Noblestown Rd) to the Panhandle Trail.

Is this the obvious best way? Or is it a Google Maps fail for any reason?

We're pretty comfortable with urban and suburban cycling, and I assume we'll have our daughter hooked up, at least until we reach the Panhandle Trail. But we don't like to take stupid risks, so if there's a better way, or ways, we'd love to hear from you.

Thanks in advance, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Rob

Offline roadrunner

Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2015, 01:43:21 pm »
Hi Whitebirch,

I did a Chesapeake Bay to Mississippi River tour in 2006, with the objective of riding as many trails as practical.  Rode the C&O Canal and GAP trails to Pittsburgh, then the Montour Trail http://www.montourtrail.org/ to the Panhandle Trail to Stubenville.  Both of those trails have been further developed since then.  The day riding west from Stubenville was the hilliest of the entire tour.

Much of northern Illinois can be crossed riding trails.  I rode the Kankakee River State Park Trail, the I&M Canal Trail, and Hennepin Canal Trail, finishing at Rock Island, Illinois.

You will likely be be able to ride some trails in Iowa.  I'm planning a tour next year across Iowa, following the American Discovery Trail, a 500-mile zigzag route which includes over 300 miles of rail trails.

Offline jamawani

Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2015, 07:28:42 pm »
Rob -

Please do not trust Google Maps - they are notoriously wrong.
In the West it has routed people on nonexistent roads, private ranch roads, you name it.
It may take more work, but there are resources out there.

Years back I did the C&O in the summer and it was great - quiet, cool, adventurous.
But my roommate did it in the fall - when it was rainy - and was miserable.
As early as you are planning, all the water will be turned off, and the towpath will be a sea of mud.

I know you have talked about short daily mileage - and a six month window.
But March is just too early for this part of the country.
Not to mention what a pain it is to get across Chesapeake Bay.

<<<>>>

Have you considered starting some place like Sapelo Island, Georgia? (Or Jekyll Island)
Then head across southern Georgia and southern Alabama - many civil rights sites.
Then grab the Underground RR ACA route -
http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes-and-maps/adventure-cycling-route-network/underground-railroad-ugrr/
Then working your way northwest up to St. Louie?
At 25 miles per day with every 5th day off - it would take about 9 weeks.
Not to mention lovely azaleas and dogwoods - and very few climbs.

PS - According to Rand McNally it's 827 miles from DC to St. Louis, but only 802 miles from Savannah to St. Louis.
And that doesn't include the extra 80 miles in the Delmarva peninsula plus crossing the bay.
Take away - it is no further leaving from the Georgia coast and with far better weather conditions.

Sapelo Island, Live Oaks and Palmettos
« Last Edit: November 28, 2015, 10:54:31 am by jamawani »

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2015, 09:11:17 am »
March? If that's correct, be advised that the Big Savage Tunnel on the GAP has variable opening dates. It might not be open until as late as the second week in April. There is no easy work around.

Offline whitebirch

Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2015, 09:53:15 pm »
Rob -

Have you considered starting some place like Sapelo Island, Georgia? (Or Jekyll Island)
Then head across southern Georgia and southern Alabama - many civil rights sites.
Then grab the Underground RR ACA route -
http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes-and-maps/adventure-cycling-route-network/underground-railroad-ugrr/
Then working your way northwest up to St. Louie?
At 25 miles per day with every 5th day off - it would take about 9 weeks.
Not to mention lovely azaleas and dogwoods - and very few climbs.

Hi jamawani,

Yes, I have thought about starting in the south, and it's very tempting.  I took a hard look at starting on the Southern Tier in St. Augustine and heading west until we hit the Underground Rail Road Route.  I'd love the Civil War and Civil Rights stuff, the nice southern spring.  Azaleas and dogwoods sound absolutely lovely!

Honestly, what keeps steering me away are the dogs.  I've heard from too many people and read too many blogs about how biking in the south can be a harrowing experience.  If it were just me, or just my wife and me, I think we would go for it.  But with our then-10 year-old daughter along (who is small for her age), it just seems too scary.  Once or twice I've thought to myself, "maybe I'm over-reacting."  But then I'll go read some blogs about trips through the south and it really does seem like a considerable number of them are dominated by negative dog encounters.  And they're not even biking with kids.

I think our mid-Atlantic start in March would be very much weather dependent.  If it were a cold winter, we might wait a few weeks for things to warm up.  Or we might make 10 miles a day for a time, instead of 25.  If the towpath is a mess, then we'd try for side roads (I know, they're hilly!), or wait a few weeks for it to dry out.  All of this might mean we have to catch a bus across part of the midwest to make up time.  But it still seems to me like a better option than running the gauntlet of the dogs through the south. 

So...  what say you?  Am I too fixated on the dogs?  Should I take another look at a southern start option?

Rob

Offline jamawani

Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2015, 03:54:06 pm »
Rob -

I've been giving your reply a lot of thought.
As with anything, there are positives and negatives.

Yes, Southern culture is dog culture - - loose dog culture.
When I was biking across southern Alabama a few years ago I went into the the sheriff's office to complain.
When I mentioned the loose dogs, the deputy said, "Jus' shoot 'em." Hmmmm.

BUT!!! These dogs are big chickens. I was solo, you would be in a group of three.
If I stopped and went towards them - they ran with their tails between their legs.
I think that three riders would have few problems - and three riders stopping would scare any dog off.
I don't carry Halt spray - but if all of you have it - I see zero problems.
But you are right - the further north you are - the fewer loose dogs - a direct correlation.

And don't catch a bus - if for no other reason than that bus travel is worse than being chased by dogs.
(They don't call riding Greyhound, "Riding the Dog", for nothing.)
There is no way you will need to make up time - unless there is something major that goes wrong - mechanical or intestinal.
Either US 20 or NEB 2 across Nebraska is like super fabulous.
And nearly all the little towns have places to camp or tiny motels.
Plus a grocery store, a hardware store with a guy who can fix anything, and a home-cookin' cafe.
Nebraska is cycling paradise.

I've biked X-USA six times plus a lot more trips in the West -
What does your tentative route look like right now?
Are you planning to get all the way to the Pacific - or just to Seattle?

Best - J

Pic - Loup River in the Nebraska Sandhills


Offline John Nettles

Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2015, 05:18:19 pm »
I have seen your picture several times.  Where specifically was it taken?  Thanks, John

Offline jamawani

Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2015, 05:31:13 pm »
NEB 91, 4 miles east of Brewster.

Offline whitebirch

Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2015, 10:11:19 pm »
Hi Jamawani,

Thanks for the very thoughtful reply!  Much appreciated.  You've got us thinking once again about a southern start.  We would all carry dog spray, for sure.  But I'm just not confident my daughter could have the presence of mind to control her bike and aim the spray and make it all work.  Or even my wife or me, for that matter!  And even if nothing bad happened, one post I read really stuck with me, where a solo woman stopped her trip because she was sick of riding in fear all day.  I know that's not the typical traveler, but it's not all that out-of-the ordinary, either.  We had a Warmshowers guy from Italy stay with us in Maine last summer after he did a W to E cross country ride.  He reached Missouri and then Kentuck, I think, and got so unnerved by the dogs that he hopped on a bus and rode north to Ohio to continue his ride.  And he seemed like a normal, enthusiastic guy, not particularly prone to overblown worries.  So all I'm saying is, we'd probably be able to handle the southern dogs ok, but I've seen enough anecdotal evidence to conclude that the dog problems can really dominate a trip.  And we already have the grandparents worrying about us taking our daughter on this kind of trip, that throwing in the dog thing just might tip everyone over the edge!

As for overall route:  Don't worry, I wouldn't miss Nebraska.  Actually, you're probably the one to convince me to go that way instead of across Kansas.  If we have to skip a section, I was thinking maybe southern Indiana and/or Illinois.  Southern Indiana sounds real nice, but southern Illinois sounds a bit ho hum, no offense to anyone who's from there.  Or maybe we don't skip anything and we just see how far we get, and if we only make it to Missoula or Idaho, then that's ok.  Or maybe you're absolutely right and we won't have any trouble making it all the way.  We do plan to finish in Seattle, although if we're ahead of schedule perhaps we'd make it to the Olympic Peninsula or the San Juan Islands.

Since our initial thinking when I posted last spring, we've decided to take on more hills/mountains where it makes sense.  For example, we'll probably  take Rte 20/12 across the Niobrara Valley to Crawford, then head up through Black Hills, which sound way too fun to miss!  Then across the Bighorns, if we're doing ok with the hills by then.  The middle route across Wyoming (fr Lusk and beyond) just sounded way too uneventful.

Thanks again for all the thoughts and ideas!

Rob


Offline jamawani

Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2015, 11:47:25 pm »
Well, I live in Buffalo, Wyoming and can attest to the beauty of the Bighorns.
But they are nothing to be trifled with - tough, tough, tough.
If you hit the Black Hills in early June and the Bighorns in late June -
you will have peak wildflowers in both places.
Flowers to roll in.


indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2015, 10:10:36 am »
For example, we'll probably  take Rte 20/12 across the Niobrara Valley to Crawford, then head up through Black Hills, which sound way too fun to miss! 

Re: An earlier mention of skipping the southern end of the Mickelson and riding to Hot Springs, Wind Cave and Custer, here is the way I did that after finishing the Mickelson in Edgemont:

http://ridewithgps.com/routes/8789349

Taking old Rte. 18 out of Edgemont keeps you off the main highway. I encountered one car before joining U.S. 18. (The Black Hills map they hand out to tourists like water shows 21 miles between Edgemont and U.S. 18 via the old highway. That's just plain wrong). Note that if you ride Crawford to Edgemont you have 60 miles with no services. And some of the state highway is unpaved.

Hot Springs to my campground in Custer via Wind Cave:

http://ridewithgps.com/routes/8801424

I got off SD 87 and took Lower French Creek Rd. It's unpaved, but the surface was pretty good. And it was quiet and very pretty. There is a spur of the Mickelson going from Stockade Lake into town. I took the road and am glad I did. The spur is not part of an old rail line but rather a paved path along the south side of U.S. 16A. There is at least one super steep grade. heading towards town. I saw someone walking it. As a practical matter, you will need close to 2 hrs. to take a cave tour. There is a campground near the park office, but no grocery source so if you stay there you will need to carry food from Hot Springs. Lots of free roaming bison in Wind Cave and Custer S.P.







« Last Edit: November 30, 2015, 10:14:06 am by indyfabz »

Offline whitebirch

Re: West from Pittsburgh to Ohio
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2015, 09:13:05 am »

Years back I did the C&O in the summer and it was great - quiet, cool, adventurous.
But my roommate did it in the fall - when it was rainy - and was miserable.
As early as you are planning, all the water will be turned off, and the towpath will be a sea of mud.

I know you have talked about short daily mileage - and a six month window.
But March is just too early for this part of the country.
Not to mention what a pain it is to get across Chesapeake Bay.


Hi everyone,

Just a follow up to jamawani and indyfabz, as you both gave me very helpful advice:

1) We decided to do the trip from April through September, instead of March through August.  We decided it's not such a big deal if our daughter misses the first part of the next school year.  And it would beat slogging through March along the C&O and GAP.  Of course, it might mean more heat across the midwest, and we'll miss those highly touted wildflowers in the Bighorns.  But you can't have it all.

2) My wife's work just underwent some unexpected changes, so all of a sudden we're making the trip in 2016 instead of 2017!  We're jumping out of our bones excited!  Exactly 100 days until we pedal away from the ocean on April 2!

I'll probably have more questions between now and April, but thanks again for all the help, and Happy Holidays to both of you and everyone else out there!

Rob