Easter ride to DC N@

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P-Rob
Participant
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I am considering a ride leaving around 9:30 PM on the 21st (after class), putting in a few miles and then finishing up in DC on Sunday the 24th in time to hang out or at least in time to make the 4:05 AMTRAK train back to Pittsburgh. Train is supposed to arrive back here near midnight.

Last time I rode from south to north and towed a trailer full of gear. I am now much lighter (body and gear) but am still weighing options between camping or hitting the YMCA hostel in Cumberland and trying for a night at the Hostel in Harpers Ferry. First two full days are over 100 miles, but at least there is a killer downhill into Cumberland. Hot showers are nice after a day on that trail.

Anyone else?


miasme
Participant
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Sounds fn good to me.

Need to make sure Amtrak is fine with bikes on that line at the moment. It changes per line seemingly daily.

Planning on the reverse ride weekend before memorial day as well. Amtrak willing.


P-Rob
Participant
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Reading over their guidelines, it looks like the “checked baggage” shipping method still applies. I have used that before. Don’t know if there are bike racks available on that route for roll-on/roll-off service though. I will call ahead to see if things have changed at all. i remember that there was a push for it but cant remember the outcome.


Vannevar
Participant
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P-Rob, would you please let us know what you find out about Amtrak? It’s probably of interest to quite a few of us. Thank you!


P-Rob
Participant
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Their website states that bikes can be checked as luggage on lines that offer baggage service – which the Capitol Limited does offer. And i have used this in the past. They do not guarantee that bike boxes will be available at the stations – however it is required that your bike is boxed up to ride the train. I will be calling ahead to see if I can reserve a box. Last time I got a free box since the last folks were careful in how they packed/unpacked it – so that it could be recycled.

The large boxes that AMTRAK uses are big enough so that you only need to turn your handlebars and remove your pedals. You cannot put other luggage in the bike box.

If they now have some roll on or off service that would be great. I will surely post whatever I find out.


Steven
Participant
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In July 2010, Amtrak announced that they would begin offering roll-on, roll-off bike service on the Capitol Limited by the end of July 2011.

Then there was some talk that they were having second thoughts, and needed to hear from potential users. Various bike organizations promoted a survey (results here, PDF) and a letter-writing campaign. The last article I saw on the matter had Amtrak saying they weren’t sure it would happen in 2011 after all.


salty
Participant
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Argh, I was really hoping this would happen soon.

Assuming you don’t have time to ride both directions, how else do people get home? I can beg my wife to come pick me up but that’s a huge waste of time and gas. Boxing up the bike sounds like a PITA but sounds like it’s still the best option?


BradQ
Participant
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I’ve only done the trip once and got a ride home, but when I was looking into doing it with a small group a rental minivan+gas was less expensive than three train tickets.


sloaps
Participant
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interested.

where would you start from? downtown or boston/mckeesport?

100 miles from downtown is rockwood, 100 miles from boston is meyersdale.

rockwood has a cellphone booster station, while meyersdale has a few places for eating/sleeping for the night.


Steven
Participant
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Assuming you don’t have time to ride both directions, how else do people get home?

I’ve read of people bringing their bikes to a bike shop and having them box and UPS the bike home (or to another bike shop, if you want the shops to handle disassembly/reassembly for you).

Other folks take a folding bike, which you can take on Amtrak already, according to the PDF I linked to.

There are also shuttle services that will haul your bike and optionally you.


salty
Participant
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Hm, I thought one-way rentals were a way more expensive but just doing a quick quote on Hertz I got ~$200 for a minivan, plus at least $50 for gas. Not too bad if you have 3-4 people, but the train ticket is only $45 though, right?

might have to look into those shuttles, though… lots of options there.


ieverhart
Participant
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As long as you’re contemplating boxing your bike for Amtrak, you might try taking a (cheaper) Megabus to Washington. I haven’t tried it myself, but their customer service rep said they would accept a boxed bike as luggage back last year.

http://bike-pgh.org/bbpress/topic/megabus

The drivers always seem a bit harried at check in when I’ve traveled on them (with just regular luggage). I don’t know how they’d react to a boxed bike, especially if they’re running late and there’s a long line or whatever. But if the ticket is only $5…


Charles
Participant
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I took the Megabus to and From DC recently with by bike in a “bike bag”

http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product_10053_10052_174818_-1___

No problems either way…Really cheap and the buses have power outlets and wireless, unlike greyhound


P-Rob
Participant
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Wow, I am stoked about the megabus. I had already priced a ticket from DC and it was only $28. I got to their FAQ and it said that bikes are not allowed on the bus. But I imagine if it is in a bike bag then it would just be another piece of luggage. The really nice thing about the megabus is that it is quicker. I imagine it does not rock like the train does either, so I could get some sleep on the way home. Thanks Charles, I have renewed interest in Megabus. Will check out how much the bike bag weighs in case I would pack it with me. I would mail it ahead but doubt i could pick it up on Sunday – lest there is a store somewhere close to the trail or train station where I could have it held. We’ll see how that one shapes up. Else it is just $20 for the box and baggage fee on AMTRAK. Plus the train ticket.

I posted the trip as a meetup for the road and trail group also – leaving from Point State Park. I will be at class at church on the northside until 9 PM and would leave right from there. Would be cool to have a night photo at the fountain, even if it is not operating yet. I planned to ride an hour or two, maybe stopping at the cemetery campsite south of Boston. Friday would be a haul to Cumberland. Saturday would end at Harpers Ferry.

My mileage has been up this year so I am OK with longer days in the saddle. It will not be easy by any stretch, but last time I averaged 85 miles/day and that was without training much other than hiking and commuting. This winter and now spring I have done training rides. Today was my second Century of 2011 otherwise I would be adding a day onto the trip (which I cannot do).


P-Rob
Participant
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There is camping and hot showers at the YMCA in Cumberland. Their gym hours are listed as open until 10 PM. I would like to arrive by 7 or 8 PM if not earlier. taking breaks and a 25 mile downhill from the continental divide could get us there by 6 PM averaging 13 mph. I think it would be better to expect an 8 PM arrival. I would also be calling for pizza the moment I roll into town. Need carbs n@ About 130 miles

There is a hostel in Harpers Ferry, but I have not called to see if the AT hikers will have already swarmed the place by then. Cant remember how long it takes them to get that far. It would be about 124 miles for us.

Last day is 61 miles into DC. I would absolutley love to have coffee and lay on the grass somewhere if the weather is good. Else get the coffee and wait out the bus or train departure.


ieverhart
Participant
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lest there is a store somewhere close to the trail or train station where I could have it held.

There are plenty of bike shops in D.C., but the one closest to Union Station has got to be Bikestation–literally right next to it. http://home.bikestation.com/washingtondc But they have pretty limited space. But they might be willing to hold this for a very limited time for a fee. Or if you’re just looking for a place to store the bag until you get there, I suspect there are a lot of people out there who might be willing to let you use their D.C.-area house as a shipping address. I mean, as long as you pass the “creep” test. Maybe you’d find a volunteer on Washington’s equivalent of the Bike Pgh boards?

I was once waiting at the Megabus “station” in D.C. (just a parking lot where people lined up) and saw a guy put his fully-assembled bike into the cargo area of Bolt Bus, which does not service Pittsburgh (yet). I think the Chinatown bus from Pittsburgh to New York, which leaves from Oakland around midnight, would also let you do that. Seems easier in a lot of ways but on the other hand, seems like a great way to get your bike all dinged up unless you put it in just right.


edmonds59
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Holy crap, I can’t even imagine being ready to complete one century by this time of year, let alone having completed 2. Good for you.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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I took Megabus to NYC in early March, but did not take a bike with me. The trip there was OK, but waiting in pouring rain for the bus to show up was not fun. (No, we couldn’t line up under the Convention Center, we had to stand in the alley next to it.)

The bus was 3/4 full of people to State College then every seat filled to NYC. The big problem was luggage. Too much stuff; suitcases wouldn’t fit at State College. Adding a bike to the luggage would be a real drag if a full load is expected.

Megabus failed me on the return trip. It was snowed out! The trip was canceled. Fortunately, my little cadre figured out how to Greyhound it to Philly & on to Pgh. They were good about refunding the $, though.


P-Rob
Participant
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I will be traveling back to the Burgh on Easter Sunday. I figure it might be a heavier travel day. Dunno. The upside is that someone has already been there and done that.

I am a couchsurfer and signed up for warmshowers too. I think I can locate someone close by that might be willnig to hold the bag for me.

I will also check out their message boards. That is a great idea, thanks.

If there were 4 of us then a minivan full of dusty smelly bikers might be the way to go.


Noah Mustion
Participant
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Megabus is awesome as long as you accept three facts:

1. It will rarely be as low as $1 or even $5 unless you get your ticket early and on an off day…still cheaper than greydog though

2. You will have to wait in a chaotic outside ‘line’

3. The WiFi/Power Outlets often do NOT work

…that all in mind, Megabus is awesome, cheap, and fast.


Kayla
Participant
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When Nick and I took Amtrak back from DC it took at least an hour to check in, check our bags, get a box, and pack up our bikes. If that’s what you end up going with, give yourself PLENTY of time at the station before your boarding time. You’ll most likely need it, their customer service is lacking and bikes seem low on their list of priorities.


dwillen
Participant
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The bikes were also one of the last things to come out of the baggage deal in the ‘burgh from what I remember.


P-Rob
Participant
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my friends that took the train up from DC this past year confirmed that the service was lacking when it came to trying to get them on board and packed up. When I took the train it was southbound, and it took a while to get my bike from the baggage folks. Yes, I was assuming an early arrival to the train station if that is how it works out.

If I can send a bike bag ahead of me I am taking megabus. Have not checked the price in a few days but it was way cheaper and faster than AMTRAK.


Kayla
Participant
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Oh yeah, Dan’s right. The bikes took a long time to get off the train. Seemed even longer at midnight when all I wanted to do was get home and sleep.


Willie
Participant
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Charles did you have to take off your fork or just your pedals, handle bars, and wheels? I have been wanting to try the megabus with that exact bag ever since I was getting on a megabus in philly and watched two guys get off one from NYC with almost fully assembled bikes poorly covered in garbage bags.


ieverhart
Participant
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Megabus is awesome as long as you accept three facts:

1. It will rarely be as low as $1 or even $5 unless you get your ticket early and on an off day…still cheaper than greydog though

2. You will have to wait in a chaotic outside ‘line’

3. The WiFi/Power Outlets often do NOT work

…that all in mind, Megabus is awesome, cheap, and fast.

I agree on all three points. Though I have gotten some excellent prices not booking too far in advance–maybe two weeks on some routes is enough to get you in the right range. The lines are outside but unless it’s a major downpour you’re probably all right. (Isn’t this a group of people who ride their bikes in the rain?) And I’ve never had a problem with the power outlets but the wifi is definitely sporadic on a lot of trips.


P-Rob
Participant
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Bought my ticket on March 29th for $28.50 (April 24th bus trip). The bike bag weighs 5 pounds and I do not know if I will carry it with me or mail it ahead, but if I do it is still cheaper than AMTRAK.

A friend said megabus was not too cool about a folding bike whilst leaving NYC. I hope not to have a problem in DC, else I will need to go AMTRAK anyway. It is worth the effort, especially if it works out. And I plan to ride rain or shine, so waiting for the bus is no big deal. Changing into dry clothes in a closet-type bathroom might be, but is possible. That is unless I do it in my seat (poor neighbor).

When I read the newspaper article about Megabus using Pittsburgh as a hub in the PG, I emailed the BikePGH staff and asked them to reach out to Megabus about bikes. I think there is a huge market for weekend trips cycling in, and to and from other cities. I at least plan to do it whenever I am not backpacking, especially in the buggy summer months.


Noah Mustion
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everhart

When I have looked at the reviews on Yelp of Megabus, those are the three main things people complain about. “Wah, I paid $10 for a R/T and I couldn’t get onto facebook… woe is me”


Erica
Participant
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I’ll just be happy that I’m not paying $80 to go to ohio for a day.

I think the only part that would ever make me take grayhound again is the fact that greyhoud can drop me off in Elyria, which a 30 minute drive closer to my house than Cleveland is.


Noah Mustion
Participant
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yeah but for an added hour and $20 to the trip…


Erica
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true. It already takes Greyhound 5 hours (on a good day) to get to cleveland, which is a 2 hour drive.


Noah Mustion
Participant
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5 hours? i’ve done both pgh-clevo schedules several times; the express was 2.5 hours and the one that stopped in youngstown and akron was 3.5… greyhound is many things, but lacking in timeliness it is not…


Erica
Participant
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My buses are always 30 minutes late, and it usually takes at least 4 hours to get there.

Sometimes they overbook by over half a bus and then just shrug their shoulders when you have to wait 6 hours for the next one.

I’ve had too many bad experiences with greyhound. Megabus was probably the best thing to ever happen to me!


HiddenVariable
Participant
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i’ve ridden back and forth to buffalo a bunch in the past year, and it usually took about 7 hours for a 3.5 hour drive. a good portion of that was layover in erie, but still, it does take a good bit of time.


cburch
Participant
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the erie bus station is the worst too.


P-Rob
Participant
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Yeah, the Erie station was a huge investment too. Good example of a project that is devoid of any type of cost-benefit measure in terms of economic development or anything else. There are a pattern of projects in many cities wherein they are planned, designed, and built within silos that shout “Why?” once we step back after a year or two to rexamine it.

I am originally from Erie and it is amazing how I view those things now, having been working on transportation and land use integration as a transplant yinzer for a while.


Adam
Participant
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That sounds like a fun ride. I am thinking of crushing the commonwealth, but if I feel like I am not going to do that I have been wanting to see how fast I can haul to DC without carrying a tent (if you guys end up doing the hostel option).


Noah Mustion
Participant
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the old pittsburgh greyhound station used to be the worst. i remember stopping over on DC-Clevo and being terrified… and i have been in many greydog stations…


HiddenVariable
Participant
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the first time i ever rode greyhound out of pittsburgh, i was sitting in that station waiting for my bus, and some guy was causing a fuss at the ticket counter. as security escorted him out, he was yelling about how he was going to go home, get his gun, then come back and kill everyone. not that i actually believed he would, but dag!


P-Rob
Participant
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Adam – IN order to get some miles in the first night I will camp at Dravosburg. I plan to stay at the YMCA in Cumberland – but it is a camping place and not a hostel. However they do offer showers. The hostel is in Harpers Ferry. If for some incredible reason I go past Harpers Ferry then I might tent it – depending on my body and weather.

I will be packing an ultralight tent (23 ounces) that I have for backpacking. So it is like camping, and being able to stay along the trail while also using the shower locations as daily goals.

I am still solo at this point too.

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