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All of us who visit touring sites either do, or want to do long distance touring. Since 2005 when I signed onto bikeforums and crazyguyonabike, I have envisioned myself doing some kind of cross country tour, be it east to west, or south to north. Last year I was within a week of riding the Southern Tier solo until things happened to force a postponement. I ended up riding the GAP/Martha’s Vineyard tour a few weeks ago as my annual bike tour.
I rode the GAP, Montour and Panhandle trails last year with a large group, and had a wonderful time. Being a social person who also enjoys time riding solo made the Rails to Trails sponsored sojourn, a good experience. I did some riding alone, some with new found friends and at the end of the day participated in the social events that were made available by the locals when we passed through or stayed overnight in their towns. This year two of us did the same ride on our own and the experience
was the polar opposite. Converted rail trails are often long stretches of nothing between major rail yards with a few small towns scattered between. Without an event with 300 bike riders coming to town, there is no reason for any business to remain open past 6 or 8 PM.
Riding 60+ miles a day on dirt with a slight incline can certainly test the patience and endurance of older guys like me. The reason for those miles was to get to a town, relax over a nice dinner and have a few cold ones while rehashing the day. There was also a time factor involved when riders have to get back to work. In reality, we ended up walking to a Walmart one evening and settling into a bar room in a house basement the next night eating frozen pizza and potato chips.
On the flip side, towpaths like the Erie Canal have towns every couple of miles, catering to bike and boat tourist during the summer. Again to finish the end to end bike ride, it’s 8 days on crushed limestone averaging 50 miles a day. The Erie Canal has the option of NY Bike Route 5 (Rt 31 for cars), which allows riders to make up time by riding on pavement. If your ride, you know how
refreshing it is to ride on pavement compared to crushed limestone, especially if it’s wet. The Erie Canal offers a plethora of choices to stay or if one prefers, free camping at any lock station. The Erie Canal is a fun bike ride as opposed to the Great Allegheny Passage, which is more of an adventure.
There are lots of local day rides available on these converted trails, and I’ll continue to ride them, but the long, boring, dusty week long rides on rail trails have been eliminated from my touring list.
Bike touring for many is a life changing adventure. For many it’s a fun vacation or it can be anywhere between the two.