Saturday, June 29, 2013

I Want to Ride My Bicycle - Day 3

Day 3:
After a decent nights sleep I was up somewhere around 6am.  After answering numerous questions from Hayden, I hit the trail at 7:09am.

This day seemed to go pretty easy.  I started off continuing my ride along the Western Maryland Rail Trail until its end around MM 136 or so and transferred back to the C & O for the rest of the day.  This was the final stretch.  Today's goal was just around 60 miles to the end of the C & O and the beginning of the Greater Allegheny Passage or GAP.  Cumberland was this point of the trail.  Cumberland as a city was established in 1787, but has been a place of gathering and living for thousands of years.  The confluence of Wills Creek and the Potomac River has had people there for quite some time.

The day had me in the zone of riding.  My butt wasn't giving me much trouble, but now my hands needed the breaks.  I kept a decent pace throughout the day and all was falling into place.  Of course, thunderstorms were once again predicted for the day, but I had been lucky so far.  Maybe today was the day to be dumped on.

I used the practice of stopping at each hiker/biker camp and drinking my water and then filling up, taking a little break each time.  This seemed to keep me hydrated and rested enough to keep a decent pace and get some miles under my tires.  I would also take a break when I passed something interesting, like one of the old locks.

Now that I was paralleling Route 68 and in the more remote part of Maryland, I noticed a lot more wildlife on and next to the trail.  The deer would hang out on the trail and when they would see me coming they would just stand there and stare for a while until the realize I'm headed right for them.  Then they would scurry off the trail and hide in the bushes until I passed.  The rabbits and squirrels were in a great abundance too.  Chipmunks not so much, but they made their presence as well.

Once again during this trip a Pileated Woodpecker flew right over me.  They are some big birds and their laughing call echoed through the woods as I rode along.

The highlight (or darklight) of the day was going through Paw Paw Tunnel.  This tunnel was around MM 155 and is the only tunnel on the canal.  This tunnel is 3118 feet long with no lights, a small path to walk on and nothing but a wooden railing to keep you from falling into the canal on your right.  They started building it in 1836 and didn't finish until 1850.  The venture bankrupt the developer of the project, but when it was done, it saved six miles of horseshoe bends along the Potomac.  It was quite an experience going through the tunnel.  I could feel the cold air flowing down the hill from the tunnel as I approached.  I readied my lights and entered the tunnel.  I hadn't gone more than 50 feet before I realized I would be walking for a while.  The path was pretty uneven with lots of water and the darkness was complete.  Kinda like Gollum's cave.

After a while I noticed the path had smoothed out, so I remounted and slowly made my way to the small opening at the other end that didn't seem to be getting bigger.  Within a few minutes, I saw some headlamps heading my way.  I passed three riders heading east and we exchanged greetings and information about the rest of our dark passage.  It was pretty cool, but felt good getting back into the light.

Looking to the end. Still a long way to go
Looking back to the beginning
After the tunnel and a few more miles down the path was where I stopped for lunch at Potomac Forks Lock House.  It was a pleasant area with a hiker/biker camp across the canal.  All in all the day just seemed to fly by.  Just  before stopping for lunch, I came on a group of four riders taking a break.  One asked me how far I was going.  When I replied, Pittsburgh, they said they were heading there too.  As I sat and consumed my peanut butter and jelly burrito, the group rode by.  I noticed at this time that they were a party of five, not four.  One of the girls had a small dog in a basket on her bike.

Potomac Forks Lock House
As I rode along, the sky began to darken.  It looked like today was the day to get rained on.  A few sprinkles came and went and after a while a steady drizzle began to fall.  I had no need to don any rain gear, as the temperature was pleasant and the rain felt good mixing with my sweat.  I noticed that I passed the group taking a break.  Shortly after that, I stopped to eat a snickers bar and along came the group.  

I was feeling good and decided to catch them and ride along with them for a while.  They kept a fast pace, but the trail was nice here and it was easy to keep up and eventually pass them.  Racing to Cumberland to see who would finish the C & O first.  (only in my head, no official challenge was made).

As I talked to the girl with the dog, the little terrier would just look at me, like WTF are you doing there.  She was cute and I think her name was Ava or something like that.  The group were from Ohio and were doing the whole trail to Pittsburgh.  As we talked I learned they were heading to Cumberland today and then taking a shuttle up to Frostburg, MD thus avoiding the steepest part of the trail as they were behind schedule.  It is 16 miles to Frostburg at an average of 2% grade.  That might not seem like a lot, but after doing a 1% grade for 184 miles, you do notice it.  The steep grade continues for a total of about 23 miles up to the Eastern Continental Divide.  I would be pedaling the whole thing in the morning, but from there it would all be "Down Hill".

Young Snapper
Some interesting hills near town
The rain slackened and then quit as I made my way into Cumberland.  The area turned to fields and other signs of civilization and you could tell you were nearing a city.  

Before I knew it, I was crossing an old railroad bridge and had completed the 184.5 miles of the C & O Canal Trail.  There was a bike store right at the trails called the Cumberland Trail Connection.  I went in and bought some lube for my chain and other mechanics.  Then I headed up the street to the Holiday Inn.

End of one trail, the beginning of another
I had decided to celebrate the end of the C & O with a hotel stay and since the skies were still threatening, I deemed it a good idea.

I checked in and was able to use my military discount to knock off quite a few bucks on the price, took a shower and did some sink laundry.  The water turned pretty gray, but I think that was mostly from my gloves where I had rubbed in some oil off my fingers after fixing my occasional chain popoffs.  

Sink Laundry
My digs for the night
After a short nap, I went out to explore the town, eat some pizza and check out the bike store again.  It was now around 7pm and the shop was closing.  I got some crab dip and a beer at the Crabby Pig near the river and as I finished up, it started sprinkling again.  I made my way back up the three blocks or so to the hotel and just started getting pretty wet as I entered the lobby.  

A cool statue by the train station
Interesting sight.  Four church steeples in one view
What I avoided
The day was a fast one.  My earliest start at 7:09am and my earliest finish at 2:16pm.  My bike computer said 60 miles with a ride time of 5 hours and 48 minutes.  Total travel time was 7 hours and 7 minutes.

The C & O Canal Trail, 184.5 miles done, about 150 miles to go on the GAP.  Tomorrow I started on the GAP and the steepest ascent of the trail.

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