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Thread: Amtrak return after cycling the C & O towpath

  1. #1
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    Default Amtrak return after cycling the C & O towpath

    I live in WV and I am looking to cycle the C & O Canal Towpath over three days in April from Cumberland and spend one night in DC and then ride the Amtrak train back the next day with my bike and gear. I will be by myself and have never ridden Amtrak and have some questions for others who may have done this or at least am familiar with riding the trains. Yesterday I made a reservation for the train and paid the fee for transporting my bike and have read of luggage you can take but am confused. Just last year I did my first of two cycle tours but each were a trail out and back returning to my car. I plan to camp and prepare my own food the first two nights.

    I have read of what you can take on Amtrak and seen the measurements but would like to verify I can take what I plan. Am I correct that I simply wheel my bike onto a certain car and support it vertically with whatever Amtrak has provided or do I need to bring anything to support the bike or take off the bike other than my panniers. I have Ortlieb classic Front and Rear panniers each which I believe fit the measurements of Amtrak's 2 personal items 25lbs, 14" x 11" 7" each and 2 Carry On Bags 50lbs 28" x 22" x 14". I also have an Ortlieb classic handlebar bag which I should be able to just place in one of the other bags. Will these be allowed and where are they actually stored. I have watched some videos of the train and see overheard storage but would some of this be stored in a special car. I reserved the upper floor and plan to sit in a side view chair and just enjoy the good view the whole time. Do I need to do anything special to get these chairs specifically on the left side of the train so I will get a good view of Harper's Ferry.

    I ultimately don't want to learn that I cannot take something and so I would have to stay in DC and figure out what to do. Are the bags I plan to take just fine. Are there any extra fees involved and if so how would I be able to pay for this. Can I take my handlebar bag or something else of a similar size to my seat. Would I even be allowed to bring another form of bag if needed now or on a future trip like the Ortlieb Rack Pack which I also have.

    This is all new to me. I have only ridden touring trains in WV that travel a short distance with no gear and I have only been to DC once when I was 10 so I need to prepare. Also transporting my bike through the train station and onto the train. Any tips on how to make it easier. Is there a certain entrance door I should take to avoid any problems and easily get to where I board the train and how early should I arrive at the station.

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Hopefully this link has the answers to your questions. I think the service is offered year round.

    https://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/939/340...ATK-15-048.pdf

    This linked podcast episode has some good info and practical experience shared as well.

    http://pedalshift.net/2015/11/the-pe...board-service/

    Cheers!

  3. #3
    PotomacCyclist is offline I spend all day thinking about bikes and talking to people on the internet about them.
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    This is the general Amtrak bicycle summary page:

    https://www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard


    I haven't used Amtrak's bike service at Union Station, so I can't offer any specific tips. But it's always better to arrive a little earlier, so you don't have to rush, or in case you can't find the correct entrance. The Union Station area is very busy with cars, buses, cyclists and pedestrians.

    If you plan to take your bike on the MetroRail system in DC to Union Station, note that bikes are not allowed on Metro trains between 7 and 10 am, and 4 to 7 pm on weekdays. Since you might be arriving during the Cherry Blossom Festival, there might be further restrictions on busy holidays. Check the WMATA/Metro site for further details, especially closer to the Festival.

    This is the general bicycle policy page on the Metro website: http://www.wmata.com/getting_around/bike_ride/

    Good luck and enjoy your visit to DC. If you do arrive during the Festival, be prepared for very busy traffic, especially pedestrian traffic around the Tidal Basin where many of the cherry trees are located. The views are great and it's interesting to see people from all over the world, but you do have to bear with the jam-packed sidewalks during the peak bloom dates.

  4. #4
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    Default Amtrak return after C & O towpath

    I have seen the dates of the cherry blossom festival and I was looking to arrive in DC on 4/20 to stay overnight and visit on 4/21 and take the train that afternoon. Would that day likely be cleared of most people there for the festival or would a week or so later be better.

  5. #5
    PotomacCyclist is offline I spend all day thinking about bikes and talking to people on the internet about them.
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    The busiest days are during the peak bloom. That doesn't necessarily coincide with the dates of the Festival though. It's impossible to say when peak bloom will occur at this point. It depends largely on the weather a couple weeks before the bloom. No one can say until early to mid March. The National Park Service posts updates on their Peak Bloom Watch on the Cherry Blossom Festival website. If you have flexibility in scheduling, you could keep an eye on that starting in March.

    All the hotels get booked up during the Festival, so people have to make travel plans in advance. This means that the area will be somewhat busy throughout the Festival. Once the Festival ends, there's a little less pedestrian traffic, but in general springtime is the start of the main tourist season in DC. I would just plan for the tourist areas to be moderately to very busy at any time in April. Even after the Festival ends, school groups from across the country arrive on their annual DC trips. I see large groups of out-of-town students and chaperones in DC and Arlington throughout the spring and summer. The Cherry Blossom Festival and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in June/July are two of the very busiest periods, but there are always a lot of visitors in the area from mid-March to early August. I'm not complaining about it. Just pointing it out.

  6. #6
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    Don't worry, you'll be fine. I took the Capitol Limited with my bike just after it started last fall.

    1. There's LOTS of luggage storage room aboard the train. Pretty much: if you can carry it on yourself, you can bring it aboard. There are luggage racks next to the "bike room" downstairs, where you can leave the panniers. Then you can bring your handlebar bag up to your seat, where you can put it under the seat in front of you or in the huge overhead rack. (Spacious enough, you could climb inside.)

    2. You hang your bike vertically from wall-mounted racks that Amtrak provides. Speaking of which, more power to you if you can lift your bike onto the train with panniers attached, but otherwise you can put the panniers aboard, then lift the bike. Since you're boarding at the first station, you should have plenty of time to arrange everything; it took me less than a minute, and I was boarding in Harpers Ferry.

    (Photos of the bike room and the lower-level luggage racks.)

    3. At Washington Union Station, there are lots of staff on hand to direct you to the right train car -- only one is equipped with bike racks. You won't get lost. When traveling Amtrak, there will usually be a lot of people around telling you what to do.

    4. During busier times, the conductors assign seats to you; at other times, you get to choose your own seat. If you don't get your preferred side, you can always go to the lounge car and admire the view from its bigger windows. Note that seats are not reserved in the lounge car, so go there as soon as the conductor's taken your ticket. (Photo)

    I hope I answered all of your questions, as it's a bit difficult to find them embedded amidst the other text.
    Last edited by paytonc; 01-31-2016 at 11:51 PM.

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