The Pedalshift Project 165: DC to Cincinnati – The C&O Towpath

The 14th Pedalshift Tour Journal whisks you (by bike, natch) from the District of Columbia across three of America’s great trails to Cincinnati, Ohio. In part one, we go through the first three days of riding and camping on the beloved C&O Towpath. Hot weather and trail outages are just a few of the challenges… do they get in the way?

The Pedalshift Project 165: DC to Cincinnati - The C&O Towpath

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DC to Cincinnati – The C&O Towpath

For a preview of the ride, check out Pedalshift 162.
Part 1 on the C&O towpath – Pedalshift 165.
Part 2 on the Great Allegheny Passage – Pedalshift 166.
Part 3 on the northern half of the Ohio to Erie Trail – Pedalshift 167.
Part 4 on the southern half of the Ohio to Erie Trail – Pedalshift 168.
Part 5 on takeaways coming soon.

Curated photos over at Instagram. All photos here.

The next 5 weeks will feature my tour from DC to Cincinnati, linking together three great trails of the eastern US. The C&O towpath, the GAP and the OTET. For a preview of the ride, check out Pedalshift 162. But to summarize…
Rode a fully loaded Novara Safari
Planned to camp every night, but was open to roofs
Started at home in DC, no zero days planned (but possible with some deviations) ending in Cincinnati and taking the train home overnight.
Longest tour since 2014, similar in length and time to my PDX to SF rides since then though.
All shownotes will have my journaling notes from my ride.
Pedalshift Plus folks! Stay on the bonus feed and you’ll get a special bonus pod with each episode… kind of a summary of my thoughts on that part of the route! If you join Pedalshift Society at any point in the run, you’ll get access – pedalshift.net/society.

May 1

Riding heavy
Cool start
Just enough moisture on the trail to keep dust down
Scout Troup’s recycle box full of garbage at Swains Lock – bad look campers!
A lot of birders on the trail – good bike awareness for large groups!
25-35 section was a little moist but not bad considering last year
Big breakfast burnt off by mm25 – stoped for a snack.
Chisel Branch memories
New trail surface after Chisel Branch is *chefs kiss *
Whites Ferry Grille “coming soon” but at least their soda machine was back
It’s straight up cold! 62 at 1pm… shouldn’t complain because tonight it gets muggy and won’t drop below 68
Keeping up with my hydration and electrolytes… feel good for a day 1 ride at this point!
40s much wetter but still firm.
Easter Egg at mm44 market for Pedalshift fans…
Mm52 crossing was a piece of cake. Rather than spend time stripping off socks I went all in.
Brunswick – got pizza and beer. Pizza a 3, beer a 9. Smoketown Brewing Station… huge selection and the Pale Ale is great.
Great resurfacing out of Brunswick
Saw some AT hikers (shares the trail)
Had Huckleberry Hill all to myself… well and the gnats

May 2

Literally nobody passed camp last night from 6pm on – weird even for a Wednesday
Cold soak oats
Foggy start
Out of camp by 7:30
Skipped Shepherdstown
Mm78 washed out badly and had huge rocks to traverse. Worst surface I’ve encountered!
New signage at Horeshoe Bend – one night, no alcohol
Taylor’s Landing trail is all dirt – not great not the worst. Likely being resurfaced?
Ran into a trip doing the Eastern Express who heard my interview of Frank Moritz! They got stickers…
Much warmer
Hopscotch with the Express Trio
Moist trail – looking forward to WMRT!
Kind of a long second half. Heat and humidity contrasted with the cool fog of the early morning.
Took a break in Williamsport and dried out the shoes
Got fresh non C&O water which was great
Large detour forced me up the hill, which I was trying to avoid!
Missed the closing time at C&O Bikes but the bike is fine… was toying stating there so I could grab a shower.
Sat for a while on a bench about 5 miles from Hancock listening to I-70 traffic whizz by

May 3

Had a nice call home last night – K and pups are doing well!
Woke up to drizzle about 4am and thought this was suboptimal – went back to sleep
Up at 5:55 to more drizzle but it was just droplets from the trees
Hurriedly packed up – no oats this morning (too tired to root around in the dark)
Got my leftover Reuben and bar set in my bag and donned my rain gear
Headed out on the C&O rather than backtracking to Hancock to get the WMRT
Got steadily hotter and the sun burnt off some clouds – looks like no rain til mid afternoon?
Took multiple short breaks to hydrate and eat.
New extension of the WMRT is stunningly good. 2 mile interruption to preserve bay habitat is great by me
The area around Bills Place in Little Orleans is unrecognizable- includes a big parking lot for trail users now!
Paw Paw Tunnel was open and crossing was non eventful
Hot! Dry!
3rd day’s the charm on tour?
Made decent time on the dry surface but still slow
Was hot enough to do my patented pump and dump shower at Potomac Forks campsite
Didn’t see any Cumberland bound folks for the remainder of the day
Got a signal again and saw rain was bearing down so I redoubled my efforts to get to Cumberland and beat the rain
Huge (too big) dinner at Crabby Pig
YMCA campsite checkin is no earlier than 6 so I was able to wait out the rain and digest my enormous bowl of pasta
Folks at the Y are super nice
The rain cover came in very handy!
Work early in the AM then Day 1 of the GAP!


Miles: 184.5
Flats: 0
Mechanicals: 0
Bad pizzas that became ok pizzas: 1
Camping nights: 3
Roofed nights: 0
People I ran into who had heard Pedalshift before: 3
Mile Marker 44s Easter Egged: 1 

Pedalshift Society

As always we like to close out the show with a special shoutout to the Pedalshift Society! Because of support from listeners like you, Pedalshift is a weekly bicycle touring podcast with a global community, expanding into live shows, bonus podcasts and tour journals! If you like what you hear, you can support the show for 5 bucks, 2 bucks or even a buck a month. And there’s one-shot and annual options if you’re not into the small monthly thing. Check it all out at pedalshift.net/society. On to the society!
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