Travelling at the speed of bike immerses the cyclist in a totally different vacation experience. The cyclist passes along back roads and through small towns and villages. The vacation becomes more about the people and the interactions along the route.
I chose five memorable off-the-trail experiences along the C&O Canal Trail and the GAP that stood out on my May cycling tour. I encourage anyone cycling these two trails to allow sufficient time to enjoy the sights and sounds along the trail. It’s surprising how much enjoyment can be a mile or two off our mapped route.
The National Mall, Washington D.C.
Follow the C&O Canal Trail through the heart of Georgetown to the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway. Make a right and follow the Rock Creek Park Trail along the Potomac River past the Kennedy Center and Watergate. It’s a short traffic free ride to the National Mall.
The National Mall is bike friendly with trails connecting the monuments and attractions. Cycling makes sightseeing across this vast space easier. The mall can be crowded and difficult to cycle in spots. It is convenient to cycle to a location and lock your bike on a rack. Take in the nearby memorials and spaces before heading back to your bike to move to another location on the Mall.
Good Stuff Eatery, Georgetown
It was lunchtime when I stopped at the 33rd Street Bridge on the C&O Canal Trail in Georgetown. I followed the crowd across the bridge to see what was shaking. The intersection of M Street and 33rd Street is just a block off the trail. The famous Georgetown Cupcakes stood on one corner with a wide variety of eateries lining M Street in the surrounding blocks.
Good Stuff Eatery was buzzing and looked like a good choice. It turned out to be an outstanding place to eat. Their Prez Obama burger was the best burger I have ever eaten. All the food was fresh and prepared expertly. I believe the restaurant has a few other locations around D.C. I always look for a locally owned restaurant rather than cookie cutter national chains.
Jefferson Rock & St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Harpers Ferry
Don’t think twice about crossing the Potomac at Harpers Ferry. I have visited Harpers Ferry three times prior to this tour. While waiting for some of my fellow cyclists’ bike repairs; I took the opportunity to explore the historic town. A local resident urged me to visit Jefferson Rock.
The path to Jefferson Rock climbs along St. Peter’s Catholic Church, the imposing steeple that is the most recognizable landmark of the town. It was a short vertical hike past the church to the overlook. I was rewarded with an imposing view of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and the historic village below.
Bicycle Heaven, North Shore, Pittsburgh
Sometimes it is not over when it is over. We cycled into Point State Park in Pittsburgh and completed our GAP and C&O journey. Justin, our Pittsburgh team member, suggested we end our tour at Bicycle Heaven, a bicycle museum. It would be an easy pickup for our SAG vehicles and a fun diversion.
It was a quick 2 miles across the Fort Duquesne Bridge and across the North Shore Trail to the museum in an industrial area of the North Shore neighborhood. Bicycles, bike parts and bike memorabilia overflowed in the two floors of the museum. It would be hard for a cyclist to not have a good time. I recommend all GAP tourists to start or end their tour at this place.
Double Wide Grill, South Side, Pittsburgh
The South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh is very cyclist friendly. It borders the GAP on the near east side of Pittsburgh. As one of the city’s entertainment centers, restaurants, bars and shopping line the blocks in the neighborhood.
Two of our Pittsburgh cycling friends met us as we entered the city. The South Side was the most optimal place to stop for lunch before we ended our ride at Point State Park. The Double Wide Grill was recommended. It did not disappoint. The outside dining around this restored gas station was fun and funky. The menu was mostly burgers and breakfast items. It made for the perfect group dining spot.