2021 East Coast Summary

The Numbers

I traveled from June 2 to June 24, cycling from Albany, NY to Durham, NC. I arrived in Albany on June 2 and arrived home on June 24; 22 days of riding (not counting the short ride upon arrival from Albany to Waterford, which then makes the days and nights line up).

I had a couple of short days, but spent only one day not cycling, for 2175 km—an average of 99 km /day total, or a whopping 104 km / day for days I rode. I rode a shocking 164 km on my longest day (and 158 km the day before). That’s significantly higher than previous trips. Starting on the canal paths meant easy cycling, which in turn meant longer days while my conditioning improved. The gravel canal paths were slow, both in base speed, and amount of energy to move. That paid off once I headed south from DC.

I spent 12 nights camping, 7 nights in hotels/B&Bs, and three “Other” (Warm Showers & Nia’s). That works out to be 55% camping, above my usual 40/40/20 camping/hostel/other split. More camping because along the canal paths there are many opportunities to camp. Few hostels, so hotel and camping were the primary options.

At a simple level (not counting bus fare), I spent $980, or $45 / day, right in my usual range, and even then only partially driven by hotel stays (and some camping that cost as much as a hotel!). Accommodation averaged $21 /night, but the mode for hotel stays is more like $65.

I also ate out far more than usual, averaging once/day at $11/day. Groceries were $9 / day.

I spent little on maintenance (< $10) and shipping ($15), and my only Entertainment expense was Niagara.

Lost Gear

My lost gear list tends to be long, but in this case I lost only one thing-a pair of black shorts. I left them in the changing area at Dravo’s Landing, in the “excitement” of everything being soaking wet.

Equipment Notes

After years of people talking about the marvels of the Brooks B-17 saddle, I purchased one in February, and spend the next few months breaking it in (with an average break-in time of 500 km!). I had 500 km on it when I left, and while the fit had improved, I still hadn’t decided if the fit was quite right. Well, after an additional 2100 km, I wouldn’t swear by it yet, but the fit continues to improve. I’ll have to ride for a while on my old saddle now to compare.

I  threw out one of my pairs of bicycle shorts I had with me, as they chafed in a very uncomfortable spot! Two of my pairs of Smartwool cycling socks wore out this trip; I had to wear them so the hole wasn’t at my big toe!  The Exped waterproof bag I store my down sleeping bag in wasn’t [waterproof]. The bag got only slightly damp on that day of Dravo’s Campsite when rain hammered me. My bicycle chain also reached the 50% wear point, so I replaced it when I returned home.

In an unusual reversal, I also added some gear along the way. A spirit level (found just at the right time), and the sandals from the Niagara Falls expedition that are provided with the ticket. I eventually shipped those home.

A bicycle fitting back in January recommended changing my bicycle’s headset and seat position. However, I’ve hated it. The night before the trip I realized that, and swapped it back. Because I had changed out my headset just before the trip, I brought the old headset along with me just in case that turned out to be a horrible decision. When the time came to ship things, the old headset joined everything else on a easy journey home.

That headset change caused other problems however. When I swapped the headset, I’d had to extend my shifter cable. That cable housing worked its way into the shifter, causing me to (mostly) lose the three hardest gears in the back. That didn’t bother me as long as the trails were reasonably flat, but  once I headed south from Erie shifting became awkward. Fortunately a stop at an REI within a couple of days got things squared away, and I experienced no further difficulties.

The tolerance on my fenders is “tolerable”, at least, until I encountered all the mud on the C&O south of Cumberland. Stopping and clearing the mud could have been a major pain, but it happened only once.

I had no flat tires. I did stop at the bicycle shop in Cumberland to add some air to the tires.

After Croatia and Bosnia/Herzegovina’s steep climbs, I came home to replace my smallest front chain ring with a much smaller chain ring. That decision was brilliant; having that improved ability to climb I still revel in.

After stressing the last time on the C&O about power, I brought along a 20,000 mA battery. That certainly solved my problems, but the battery is heavy. 10,000 mA would have easily covered my needs, and weighed less!

Food

A bit of a diet change for this trip. A nutritionist recommended I switch my overall life diet around a bit, with a higher concentration of fats and protein. So significantly more nuts and meat in addition to my high carb diet. I’m not convinced it was better, but I at least don’t think it was worse. Each day, I mostly consumed:

  • 2 bowls of cereal
  • A half gallon of orange juice
  • 200 g of meat w/ 3 bagels (across the course of the day). This could also include pasta with tuna for dinner. Angel hair pasta cooks faster, and thus uses less fuel.
  • 100 g of nuts
  • 1 nut bar
  • 3 bananas
  • A “box” of cookies (most often ginger snaps)
  • A box of something else (often 4 pop-tarts once I found them)
  • Some fast food meal high in calories
  • A sport drink
  • Water. Lots of water. High temps meant 80 oz of water in addition to the above.

Waffle House provided particularly well-rounded but dense calories. Better that McDonald’s!

Summary

“So how was your trip?”

Always a hard question to answer.  After talking with Mark I’ve realized I have two different time windows. The first is after the initial 5 days or so, waiting for my metabolism to flip into overdrive. But I think Mark had a point. At about the three-week window I had saddle sores under control, callouses on my hands and feet, and in general felt better day-to-day.

Niagara Falls (all three!) were interesting, and my only entertainment expense, because there’s just not that much to see along the canal paths.

I followed: The Erie Canalway, the Great Allegheny Passage, the C&O Towpath (and associated WMRT), and the East Coast Greenway, as well as various sections of finding my own way. The GAP was by far my favorite, although it didn’t last long.

My dislike of the poor trail quality of the first 100 km of the C&O is offset by the heavy traffic from the ECG, so I don’t know which of the two I dislike most, but it’s a tossup, even after you add in the (brief) awesomeness of the WMRT. The Erie Canalway ends up on the fairly positive side. If you like quiet nature that elevates it further.

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