Obstacles And Tailwinds: Highs And Lows Of Long Distance Biking

Abby Taylor and Seth Orme are pedaling across the United States, picking up trash as they go. They’re moving fast, but have also hit some obstacles along the way.

Packing It Out Abby Biking Dirt Road

As I prop my tired legs up and write, I barely notice the heaving and swaying of the hulking machine. No, it’s not my bicycle, although when carrying my bicycle up the winding stairs into Harper’s Ferry, it felt plenty big.

I am on the Capitol Limited line train, chugging towards Pittsburgh. You might (and should) be thinking, “If you are on a bike tour, why are you on a train?”

Train On A Bike Tour

Actually, many people incorporate trains as part of their travel on bike tours. The people I met at the train station were taking the train to Pittsburgh to bike the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal to DC.

Others I met had just finished that route and were taking the train home. Amtrak has made a point to add storage for bikes on several of their train lines. Also, trains are really neat — and an affordable way to travel!

Packing It Out Tunnel

But why am I on a train? Where is Cap? What’s going on? A lot has happened since we last updated you in Damascus, Va.

Virginia: Beautiful Biking

Biking through Virginia has been a treat. We’ve had some bad days, but thankfully the good have outnumbered them.

We heard from many locals that this has been a wet spring; as bikers, we felt the brunt of it. Wearing raincoats made us sweat. So we slogged through day-long showers arriving at our campsite chilled and soaked.

When we finally got to the downhills to coast through, speed made the rain painfully pelt our faces. We put our heads down and watched the white lines, trusting the bikes to carry us to the bottom.

Packing It Out Abby Biking On Dirt Road

But the biking! The beautiful rolling hills! We were able to string together several classic bike paths including US Bike Route 76, the Virginia Creeper Trail, and the New River Trail.

We cruised through Shenandoah valley before crossing over the Appalachian trail on the way to DC. Connecting a variety of lovely gravel backroads into the Old Dominion Trail, an amazing 44.7-mile, non-motorized path paved for cyclists and walkers.

Without the worry of cars or finding directions, we were able to make great mileage on this path and arrived in DC a day early. We were able to clean up a park and check out some sights around the city before giving a presentation at a local REI.

Packing It Out Bike

A Toothache On The Road

We left DC with excitement about the next bike trails, the C&O Canal Town Path and the Great Allegheny Passage. Back in Damascus, I damaged a tooth that had already been giving me issues.

After DC, it became a daily struggle and source of pain. We decided as a group that the tooth needed fixing now, so we biked off the trail in Potomac, Md., to get my molar extracted. In order to make up the mileage lost and make it to our next destination on schedule, we decided to take a train.

We booked one ticket and paid to bring a bike along. When we went to book the second, we were notified that bike storage was full.

Packing It Out Abby On Roof

After thinking long and hard, we decided to split up. So here I am on the train to Pittsburgh, and Seth is going to attempt to bike 260 miles in less than three days.

These past few days have been rough, mentally and emotionally. Things never work out like you expect, but I know that we can persevere and pedal on.

Thankfully, the weather and scenery have been wonderful the past few days. We’ve got 1,300 miles on our odometers and 300 pounds of trash removed from scenic spaces along the way.

Our slow transition out from under the Mason Dixon line has been completed, and we are stoked to be moving on and cycling through the Midwest! Madison, Minneapolis… we’re coming for you!


–Our 2017 ‘Packing It Out‘ coverage is sponsored by REI.

–Check out the crew’s 2015 and 2016 efforts on our ‘Packing It Out’ page. Connect with Abby and Seth on InstagramTwitter, and their blog.

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