Between doing the taxes, testing out the new, improved Little Nellie, and shopping for gear, I have begun preparations for my 2023 bike tour. The plan is to ride from home in Mt. Vernon, Virginia to Bar Harbor, Maine. From there, I ride home. Somehow. Using mostly the Adventure Cycling Atlantic Coast Route, I constructed a preliminary itinerary, mostly guided by the availability of campgrounds and motels. The ACA maps also contain info on where to buy food and the location of interesting places along the way.
One of keys to a successful tour is getting a good night’s sleep. I have had mixed success in this regard. For last year’s tour I brought a Sea to Summit pillow. It’s much better than sleeping on a pannier filled with clothes. And it packs down to the size of a can of corned beef hash.
I have been using a lightweight REI Sleep Sack for most of my tours. This is a sleeping bag with very little insulation and an open toe box. It was great for sleeping on warm nights during my previous tours but it was woefully inadequate on the cold nights in the mountains out West last summer. I fear Maine may get a bit cool at night so it seemed like a good time to upgrade.
Last week I bought a Nemo Forte bag rated to 30 degrees. It packs down to about twice the size of the Sleep Sack but fits snuggly in one of my rear panniers. I gave it a try in my family room. Dang. Soo comfy!
This week I bought a Themarest NeoAir Xlite sleeping pad. It’s what Mark and Corey, two very sound sleepers, used last summer during our tour through the mountainous West. When I got it home I used the included air sack to inflate it. The air sack is the new thing in camp gear inflation. It’s a super lightweight bag with a valve at one end. The valve attaches to the intake valve on the sleeping pad. You roll the top of the bag down, trapping air inside. As you continue to roll the top down the air squeezes into the pad. Repeat as necessary. I had to do 13 iterations before the pad was filled. PIA. Mark and Corey used a small battery powered pump. You attach the pump to the valve and go about your business setting up camp. The pad inflates in a matter of minutes. No muss. No fuss. Long story short I’m going to get me a pump soon.
I tried the bag and pad out on my family room floor. It’s about as comfortable as sleeping in bed. The padded rug underneath helped but I’m satisfied that my sleep problems will be a thing of the past. I’ll test everything out in the backyard in April just to be sure but I have a very good feeling about this.
I also bought an REI brand walking cane. It collapses down to a couple of feet in length. I should be able to strap it to my rear rack or put it inside my rack top dry bag. This should come in handy when I get to Valley Forge and other places worth exploring off the bike. Take that spinal stenosis.
In addition to the pump, I’ll probably buy a new dry bag. My old one still holds plenty of stuff but it has a duct tape patch on one end which is not ideal for keeping things dry.
Using the Adventure Cycling maps, I did some cogitating. As I said, places to sleep are a key determinant of the length of each day’s ride. The maps tell me where to find campgrounds and motels but not Warmshowers hosts which are abundant. I factor in the Warmshowers options as I ride.
One of the disadvantages in travelling alone is that hotels and motels will be more expensive since I won’t be able to split the cost with other riders. One of the advantages of solo touring is the fact that Warmshowers hosts tend not to want to deal with more than one or two people per night. Thsi was a source of frustration for Corey. Mark, and me last summer. I should have many more Warmshowers options as a solo rider
The tour starts May 23, two days after a very busy week. I am planning on attending my 50th high school reunion in Albany, New York. I would have ridden to it but I will also be attending a Crowded House concert in DC a couple of days later. (The concert was rescheduled from September 2022 after the drummer hurt his back.) The route will begin at home and take me through 11 states (Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont) and the District of Columbia, This will add two states, New Hampshire and Maines, to my 50 states quest,
Day one will likely be off route to take advantage of Mark’s offer to stay at his place in Linthicum, Maryland south of Baltimore. Riding the ACA route then cutting over to Mark’s place would make for an 80 mile first day. Using a more direct route, one that I used on my first tour in 1999 tour as well as on two other event rides to Baltimore, I’ll be able to shave 25 miles off that distance.
After Mark’s place, I’ll rejoin the ACA route, bypasssing Baltimore to the west and heading up a rail trail to York, Pennsylvania. At York, I hang a right and head across the Susquehanna River to Lancaster County, Amish country. After Lancaster comes Valley Forge which I have never been to.
The route continues skirting Philadelphia to the northwest. North of Easton I cross the Delaware River into New Jersey and head up the Delaware Water Gap. (I understand a detour is in place because of a landslide in the gap. I expect I’ll be doing some climbing.) I’ll ride up the Delaware to Port Jervis, New York. Travelling into New York, I’ll follow a rail trail along the eastern side of the Catskills until I cross the Hudson River on the Walkway over the Hudson Park, a repurposed raillroad trestle at Poughkeepsie. Here I may divert to check out Hyde Park just to the north of Poughkeepsie. The route continues into Connecticut and across the Berkshires. (Knees don’t fail me now!)
At Windsor Locks, after ten days of riding I’ll leave the the route and head south to West Hartford where I will take a rest day at my daughter’s place. Hopefully there will be a minor league baseball game that night.
Back on the road I’ll go back to Windsor Locks and turn right, going across the northern edge of Connecticut to the upper Northwest corner of Rhode Island.
(One possible change to my journey would involve riding off route to Providence where I went to grad school. After that I’d head east to Cape Cod and out to Provincetown. Then take a ferry across Massachusetts Bay to Boston where I went to college. The downside to all this is getting back on the ACA route which bypasses Boston about 30 miles west and north of the city.)
From the corner of Rhode Island the route heads northeast to Westborough, Massachusetts between Worcester and Framingham. Continuing northeast the route enters New Hampshire north of Methuen, Mass. After a night in East Derry, I will head to the coast and enter Maine near York. After that, I ride 200 miles up the coast to Bar Harbor arriving around June 10.
I’ll spend a day exploring Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island before heading back down the coast following the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier Route. This route coincides with the Atlantic Coast route until Brunswick, Maine before leaving the coast and crossing the Green and White Mountains in New Hampshire and Vermont, respectively, more or less in a straight line.
At Ticonderoga, I’ll re-enter New York State and follow Lake George and the Hudson River down to Albany where I grew up and have family. I’ll take another rest day there.
The current plan is to ride down the Hudson to Poughkeepsie where I will rejoin the Atlantic Coast Route for the ride back home.
I expect I’ll make it home by the first week in July with 2,200 miles of riding under my belt. This will get me back in plenty of time to partake in family events, most importantly, a visit from my son who I haven’t seen since the pandemic hit.
If my son’s itinerary results in him arriving in August, I may head west from Ticonderoga on the Northern Tier instead. Where I would turn south is anybody’s guess. At most this could add 600 or 700 miles to the trip. (In general, the longest route would go from Ticonderoga to Erie, Pennsylvania where I would turn south to Pittsburgh. From Pittsburgh to home is 350 miles of mostly off-road riding.)