It has been a few days since we got back back from our baby moon bike tour and I wanted to get down a re-cap while the memories are still fresh. While researching for the trip I didn't come across many resources for bike touring while pregnant, so I knew I wanted to put my experience out there.
We had a three week trip with a short tour at the end, we visited friends and biked around Philadelphia and NYC before heading to Pittsburgh to ride the GAP and C&O canal path to DC. We covered a little over 350 miles in 7 days.
Almost as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started planning for a bike tour. I knew that the further along I got the less comfortable travel and biking would become but I couldn't imagine not taking some sort of bike trip this summer, as it will most likely be a year or so before I can take off on another. I also had no idea how my body would hold up to multiple days on the bike. With all that in mind we starting thinking about routes and dates.
We ending up choosing to bike from Pittsburgh to DC, which was a route we had been wanting to do regardless and allowed us the visit friends. I was comfortable with this route for a number of reasons, it is all "off road" no car exhaust or dealing with traffic, ample free camping sites averaging within 20 miles of each other and we have had tons of friends who had done the trail who could give us advice.
We decided to give ourselves 10 days to ride 350 miles, figuring that an average of 35 miles a day was lenient. We also made sure to acknowledge and talk about the fact that I might not be able to handle even that mileage and we needed to be OK with stopping and finding alternative transportation to DC. I think having open communication with Justin about how I was feeling mentally and physically was the most important thing to having a successful tour. I wanted us to set realistic goals but also backup plans and in general focus on having fun versus mileage.
The day we starting in Pittsburgh it was pouring and had been for the week before, the river had swollen its banks and the crushed gravel trail was very tacky. Gathering groceries and navigating out of town during the downpour took us most of the day and we only ended up 25 miles down the GAP trail but we pulled in at 5pm and had plenty of time to dry out and cook up dinner, we took major advantage of the covered picnic area and even slept on the tables so that we could avoid having a soaking tent in the morning! The first night I slept pretty great despite some rude fellow campers who can in at 2am with full lights and very loud conversation.
Day 2 was much drier though overcast. We decided to try and make it to Ohiopyle, a 50 mile goal. I was feeling good and we kept hearing about how fantastic the campground was and it seemed like every cyclist we saw was headed there for the night. I had a pretty rough and slow day, I attribute a lot of that to grade which was 2%, false flats always wear me down mentally and the tacky surface of the trail. We stopped for frozen yogurt and I was able to push it onward for the last 15 miles. When we got to the campground entrance we ended up getting pretty confused by the registration signs, so we headed into town to ask at the visitors center. Right as we pulled up it started raining pretty hard again and the help desk advised us against using the campground which would have required us to haul our bikes up a very long, steep, rooty and muddy trail and instead pointed us to the friendly folks at a river rafting company. The put us up on a wooden tent platform and let us use the hot showers, we couldn't complain even though we had just feet between us and an active train line. This was the first bad night of the trip for me, I have found that being pregnant allows you to worry like crazy about any and everything and middle of the night worries are especially irrational, I became convinced in the middle of the night that I was making the baby deaf by sleeping so close to the loud train! Luckily the morning light and a more calm rational partner was able to talk me out of that train of thought.
The next few days we continued to have good luck with the weather and trail conditions, we didn't push it very hard or far and ended the GAP after 4 days. My body was starting to hurt at night, I desperately wanted to sleep on my back but was worried about compressing my vena cava so I had to switch from hip to hip. I also couldn't stop obsessing over the babies movements and was convinced that they were moving less, I spent the first night on the C&O trail crying to myself for hours in the tent while Justin slept. Again in the morning, I was fine. The middle of the night wake up and panic had to stop, I decided I needed more snacks, longer breaks and to spend more time focusing on fetal movements. Since we weren't traveling very far each day we had no reason to not stop for 1/2 long breaks every few hours, we had been getting into camp hours before nightfall which wasn't really necessary.
I felt so much better the next few days after this decision, the worrying stopped and I started having more fun!
We ended up splurging for a hotel in Shepardstown after the campsite we rolled up to turned out to be a big mud pit and the water pump was broken. We decided to pretend like it was my birthday 2 weeks early and just go for it. IT WAS HEAVEN. Justin went and got Chinese take out and we ate it on the bed watching Cowboys vs Aliens, I had two showers and a bath, did all the dirty laundry and had an amazing nights sleep. When we woke up in the morning we had the free continental breakfast and then went into town for another breakfast and to pick up pastries for our third breakfast! We planned to ride about 44 miles and make it to one of the last campsites on the C&O before DC, a mere 26 miles from finishing. We had a very leisurly morning and early afternoon stopping often to pick wine berries, dip our toes and relax. At about 3 pm we pulled up to Whites Ferry and Justin gave me a temperature check, I felt GREAT. I was good to go to camp but I also was positive I could make it all the way to DC if we wanted to. After checking the weather and realizing that a huge storm was coming in during the night and having spent a large portion of the past few days cleaning out Justin's fenders from the already muddy trail we decided to just go for it and finish up, riding a total of over 80 miles for the day. I just got into this incredible rhythm and felt the muddy trail just fly under my wheels. I felt so strong and fast...until night fell and we entered DC. I had not prepared myself for the last few miles biking through town and a particularly long and steep climb right at the end had me in tears, it was the only response my body had left! But we got in to our amazing host, ordered pizza, took showers and by midnight, I was A-ok.
All in all we had a really great tour with few surprises. One of the only annoying things was how often I had to stop and pee, it was no joke every 2-3 miles, the combination of tight shorts and posture had my bladder squished to about the 9 month stage. Luckily Justin just took this in stride, as something that just needed to happen and he never once complained about the frequent stops. I attribute how much fun and how little complications we had to having a partner with me on the trip who was so understanding. The last thing we are when pregnant is weak and helpless, I didn't need someone who was going to second guess my bodies ability but I did need someone who would help me check in and make sure I was doing OK, while never making me feel like I was holding him back. Every time I needed to stop and eat, we did, with no judgment about how far or how long we had gone. But he was also gently encouraging, which allowed me to push myself harder.
I would really recommend that anyone who has experience bike touring continue to do so through their pregnancy, as long as they plan on setting realistic mileage goals with backup plans and have a supportive riding partner with good communication skills. We just had a checkup with our midwife and at 25 weeks the baby is healthy and growing, I am measuring 27 weeks along and feeling like this trip allowed me to get further in touch with the changes happening to my body, with the baby and with my partner. I can't wait to start planning our first family tour with baby!