It’s been almost three weeks since returning from a memorable trip with mixed emotions. I’d be lying if I said it was an easy decision to tackle a 330 mile, self-supported bike glamping trip from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington DC. Pulling each other through a century can be challenging enough on any given day, but to wake up a few hours later and do it all again, and again for three days straight sounded reckless, confusing, and terrible to most of the people I told leading up to our late October depart.
Neither The Great Allegheny Passageway, nor The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath are foreign to riders in bike packing, adventurist community. Both trails slip through the Appalachian Mountain Range on 150 miles of hard-packed limestone, while traversing bridges, tracing rivers, and following seemingly endless train tracks. Any time of the year, this region of the East Coast will not disappoint, and as Fall was on its way out—I need not attempt to put into words, what is best experienced in person, or at the least, seen with pictures.
This whole thing started as an idea two months earlier, and with just two days remaining—everything crumbled apart. Maybe challenging ourselves to finish in ‘3-days’ was too tempting, or maybe the deal was too sweet to begin with. I told myself, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” 134 miles the first day, 100 miles the second, and 85 miles the last day would bring us to DC with time to celebrate. The weather forecast leading into the weekend remained a guessing game, but there was no guessing the amount of rain we rode through on Day 2. It was that heavy, sticky kind of rain—you could probably ring-out more water from my jacket and gloves than whatever water I brought in my hydration bottle.
Excuses carry very little substance, and when you fall short, regardless of your efforts —you can’t help but walk away with a sour taste that clings to the back of your throat. Thankfully or not—memories could care less about what excuses you made or how focused you were that day.
If reading this feels abrupt, good. You’re that much closer to understanding how it felt to get off a bike with 185 miles remaining. 4am wake-up calls every day, getting dressed with whatever you have, and riding down a hill to the smell of rain in your face is about as difficult as it sounds. Avocados and potatoes for breakfast may well have been been high points considering our bike diet of shot-bloks, clif-bars, and waffles dressed with as much butter and syrup as they’d allow. The three of us fight like old couples off the bike, but put us on two wheels and we’ll always make time–with that kind of privilege, I probably wouldn’t have wanted this trip to end any other way.