We took a couple road bikes to a nearby park with a a few miles of crushed limestone trails to get an idea what we're going to have to deal with. We were pleasantly surprised; the gravel tends to be so hard packed, we didn't have an issue at all.
I found a deal on my new favorite 'lodging website' AirBNB, near the center of the 80 mile long Greenbrier River Trail. This Rails-to-Trails path seemed to be in the Appalachian Mountains, but followed a river and was quite flat. There were also mountain bike rentals available in town, just in case our road bikes weren't going to cut it in the end. We loaded up the van with bicycles, beer, and a little bit of luggage, and headed southeast.
The apartment was just outside the tiny town of Marlinton, a full 300 miles from Columbus. (I've actually been through Marlinton before on the motorcycle, but I had no idea there was a long bike path nearby.) It was setup like a large studio apartment, with one main room plus a full bathroom. It was brand new, and we were the second folks to stay there. The apartment was above a large garage, on a private 7 acre lot. David maintains, it's the nicest place we saw in West Virginia.
Sunday morning we found one flat tire, but quickly swapped out the tube. We headed to the outfitters once more, and chose to ride 43 miles. The southern end of the trail was about 53 miles away, but a chance of rain in the afternoon convinced us that 43 mile route would be a better idea. They shuttled us and our bikes down to the trail-head, and we hit the trail northbound. About 5 miles in, we disappointingly had another flat. It was the same tire we fixed earlier in the morning. Upon inspection, it appeared to be a manufacturing defect in the new tube! We swapped another new tube in, and kept cruising. It wasn't brutally hot, but we took advantage of the river since we were there. Unfortunately, it was only ankle to knee deep in most places.
- Our bike experience after riding almost 65 miles on the trail: a road bike can handle it just fine, but, a crossover, cruiser, mountain bike, or even cyclocross bike may be a bit more comfortable. Small road bike tires don't absorb much vibration, and they sink in the gravel a little in some of the deeper spots, but they'll manage. Riding the gravel path takes a bit more effort than pavement, so keep that in mind before heading out for a personal record ride. No matter what bike you ride, carrying a spare tube and pump is an absolute necessity; mainly due to a lack of cell service. There are a few places along the trail to refill water bottles, but it's worth the weight penalty to carry more than you'll need, especially if it's hot.
Back at the apartment, we got cleaned up and joined the birthday party that was happening out back. We didn't know anyone there, but it was out back of our apartment, and we were invited, so of course we joined in! Did I mention we bought a bunch more beer? Well, we bought a bunch more beer, and hung out by the fire-pit all night telling stories and drinking away the sore muscles.
Monday morning we packed up the van, cleaned up the apartment, said goodbye to the hosts and residual party-goers, and headed out. We weren't dying for another bicycle ride, but we needed to find something to do for half the day. The original plan had us canoeing or kayaking, but the river level was too low. We ended up taking some recommendations, and doing a little hiking. We visited a cranberry bog, and then hiked a waterfall trail.
Our Apartment on AirBNB
Greenbrier River Trail Info
Appalachian Sport Outfitters