There are a number of advantages to participating in the Venture Outdoors 250 Bike Tour from Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh early this fall.
Chartered bus transportation from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., and box truck transportation for your bike.
Three catered meals a day, plus snacks.
Your camping gear waiting for you every evening.
Professional ride leaders.
Professional bike mechanic.
Optional excursions to the Antietam battlefield near Sharpsburg, Md., where more than 22,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed in a single day -- Sept. 17, 1862, -- and Fort Frederick, also in Maryland.
Optional indoor lodging.
All you have to do is pedal.
Well, you do have to take down and put up your tent.
The cost of the eight-day tour is $875 per person unless you opt for indoor accommodations which cost extra.
"It is going to be awesome," said Seth Gernot, bike tour coordinator for Venture Outdoors. "Breath-taking scenery. Historic towns. And wildlife. It's a great way to celebrate Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary."
The Sept. 27 to Oct. 4 tour is designed for cyclists who have ridden long distances before. There's still time to get in shape, though.
After arriving in Washington Sept. 27, the tour will get on the C&O Canal Towpath in the city's Georgetown neighborhood for a 12-mile ride to Rockwood Manor Park in Potomac, Md. The next two days will be 50-mile rides to Harper's Ferry, W.Va., and Fort Frederick and then a 30-mile ride to Little Orleans, Md.
Then, it's 48 miles to Cumberland, Md., 62 miles to Confluence, 50 miles to West Newton and 40 miles to Pittsburgh.
Gernot, 30, a native of Toledo, Ohio, bikes from Lawrence-ville to his Downtown office on workdays. He has visited each overnight stop with the exception of West Newton, which he'll do soon.
Although the tour initially was planned for 250 riders, Gernot said the National Park Service has limited it to 90 participants at its facilities.
"We already have more than 60 persons signed up and we expect the remaining spots to go quickly," he said.
Although pedaling from D.C. to Pittsburgh involves climbing a 1.75 percent grade of about 16 miles from Cumberland to Frostburg, Md., it's the best direction to go. Some sections of the 185-mile long towpath can be a little tough on the posterior, even with the most comfortable of saddles. The 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage is wider, smoother and more fanny-friendly.
From Frostburg, the trail climbs a few miles to the Mason-Dixon Line, travels through the 3,300-foot long Big Savage Tunnel and cuts through the Eastern Continental Divide, before arriving at Deal in southern Somerset County, the highest point on the trail at 2,390 feet.
From there, the trail slowly descends over the next 110 miles to an elevation of about 700 feet at The Point. Along the way, it crosses the Keystone Viaduct, Salisbury Viaduct and Pinkerton bridges. It parallels the Casselman River to Confluence, where it overlooks the Youghiogheny River to McKeesport. Then, it's down the Mon to the Point.
Gernot said Venture Outdoors is considering an option where bicyclists can join the ride in Confluence for the final two days into Pittsburgh. If you'd like to participate, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by Aug. 29.
"If we receive enough interest, this option will open up," he said.
Two other options are available: Join one of 18 teams of six cyclists each for the PNC Legacy Relay, a fast-paced, rain-or-shine, 24-hour ride from D.C. to Pittsburgh Oct. 3-4.
Or gather on the Hot Metal Bridge Oct. 4 to accompany the Venture Outdoors riders to The Point and the grand re-opening of Point State Park.
Larry Walsh can be reached at email@example.com and 412-263-1488.