there’s backpacking and then there’s bikepacking by Susan Sonnenschein, Naples Pathways Coalition, Board of Directors

If you’re looking for a fun adventure, consider a bike packing trip. You can choose from a myriad of trails across the country or the world, pack your gear on your bike, and head out on one of the best ways to experience nature, history, new destinations, and interesting people. The variety, length of days, miles, locale, accommodations, and assistance available today is mind-boggling! You can go with an organized group or on your own if you prefer. The key is to plan ahead, especially if you need to rent bikes or travel some distance.

On a recent trip, we made our arrangements with a Pittsburgh bike shop that specializes in trips on the Great Allegheny Passage, a historic, decommissioned railroad converted into a rail-trail for biking, walking and running. As it’s commonly called, the GAP is on many cyclists’ bucket lists. The trail travels from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., crosses the Eastern Continental Divide, the Mason-Dixon Line, and is the route that Lincoln’s casket took after his death. We felt as though we were journeying through meaningful American history, and it was fun to chat with locals, learn about their town’s history, and stay in bed and breakfasts that cater to cyclists.

Golden Triangle Bikes offered our trip with an a la carte menu of services. We had them plan our route, make reservations at bed and breakfasts and transport us plus our bikes from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland, where we began our trip. On the 100-mile van ride, we discovered that our driver’s in-laws live in Naples – a small world indeed!

The packing challenge: trying to pack four to five days gear into those panniers (a basket, bag, or similar container, carried in pairs and attached to the sides of a bicycle – see photo). Most mornings were chilly – having a down jacket was a big plus! One morning, we had some drizzle, but we were prepared with rain gear. The afternoons were warm, requiring extra water and something clean to wear for the evening. Because there is little time for laundry, wearing clothes more than once is perfectly fine.

Each little town had some historical aspect and local color – from an elegant bed and breakfast to a tired but welcoming old motel with an equally old dog; local pizza joints and bars to barbecue on the river, and kids selling cold drinks on the trail. There was no lack of engaging local people. They were so appreciative of bike travelers, who have saved many “trail towns” by providing industry and significantly contributing to the local economy, also true in the case of the GAP. Business thrives, property values increase and crime is reduced near trails –indeed a win for everyone!

Bike trails make a phenomenal addition to any community. As Naples Pathways Coalition works to develop the Paradise Coast Trail in Collier County, we have so much to look forward to: an incredible amenity that will enhance our quality of life, broaden tourism offerings (especially important when our water quality is a concern), improved safety for recreation and commuting, benefits to the local economy and more! Generally speaking, cyclists love the outdoors, enjoy meeting locals and respect their surroundings. A Naples bicycling trip to our tropical paradise will be on many future bucket lists, no doubt!

Susan Sonnenschein
NPC  Board of Directors

To learn more about Naples Pathways Coalition (NPC) and the Paradise Coast Trail (the PCT), please visit You can become a member of NPC, donate, volunteer, and get involved with some pretty great people, if I do say so myself! Our executive director, Michelle Avola-Brown, would be happy to answer any questions and help you get connected. She can be reached at or 239.777.7718.

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