17 miles south of Cumberland, MD at Town Creek Aqueduct on the C&O Trail, to Rockwood, PA on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail. 64 miles of riding (and hiking) in 6:10 hrs.
This was the day to begin to test my mettle on the AD concept. Ok, so after a night next to the Norfolk and Southern RR, and5 4-major trains going by (we were literally right next to the tracks) we got it rolling for another day on the AD trip. Went to Micky D’s for hot coffee, breakfast and Wifi in downtown Cumberland. Worked for about 1.5 hrs and then went back to were we left off yesterday at the Aqueduct. My ride to Cumberland was brisk compared to the last several days of fighting mud and deadfall. And within 2 hrs I was in the downtown. Now this was the first time that I had to cross asphalt roads on the trail, and as I mentioned in the first blog, I’m good with that aspect of this trip. I just do NOT want to do major stretches as asphalt when I could be riding on soft surfaces. So I crossed these feeling like I wasn’t cheating on anything.
Got into Cumberland to meet Judy and ended up shouldering my bike through the parking area. Ate, mapped out the next section, the Great Allegheny Passage, and had Judy ride out to the first meeting point in Frostburg. Left Judy, and I had to shoulder the bike across an intersection to the jcn of the GAP. Now this first 2 miles of the trail I was told is asphalt, so I rode in this totally gnarly grassy, knee high weeded section for about ¼ mile. The I spotted RR, and moved down to the RR and road on ballast for the remainder of the trail until it turned to gravel. So I got through a couple of small questionable areas still feeling like a “virgin” with my AD ethics.
Then it started to rain, and this was to be my fate for the next 38 miles of the day’s ride – rain, rain, and more rain. Now the funny thing was that as soon as I began riding on the gravel I felt as if I was going uphill – or my bloody brakes were rubbing. And low and behold, I was indeed doing this false flat climb as I could look off to my right and see that I was getting higher and higher above the river valley. Could only muster like 8-10 mph max on this false flat climb, and believe me I was working to even do that – with NO gear! The rain was a steady light drizzle, and more of a minor inconvenience than anything. So I got to the first tunnel, and be damned if the surface didn’t go to asphalt, so I rode on the adjacent RR ballast through the tunnel, one-handing it to boot with a HD video cam in one hand, to the opposite side. Then got back on the gravel trail and continued.
The tunnel thing happened a second time, this time, with no adjacent RR tracks I rode this 2-foot wide sliver of gravel on the edge of the trail and up against the rock wall of the tunnel. The, to make matters worse, at least from an AD ethics standpoint, there were these asphalt runners that started up about 100 ft from each road crossing before and after the crossing. So I’d get on the berm of the trail, in gravel or high weeds and do my thing. Did this countless times as I crossed main roads. Eventually I had climbed up a good 1500 vert feet in about 16 miles by the time I met Judy at Frostburg.
Did a quick bit of beef jerky and a coke and I was off again, hoping to top out at the highest section of the GAP trail some 25 miles into the ride. The rain was on and off, with these moderate deluges that would last a few min, and then there was drizzle and/or clearing. On, and on, and on, the same pattern of weather. By the time I’d reached the Mason Dixon Line, the boundary of MD and PA I was at the highest point of the GAP trail, and it was raining pretty steady by then. No pics, no video, it was just too wet out, and what with the temps in the low 60’s I just did not want to stop much for fear of getting hypothermia, so I just kept rolling past it all. One state down about 11 to go – and this is supposed to be the easy part of the trip!
Got up over the pass and then suddenly my speed went to like 13-15 mph. God it felt good to really fly, rain or no rain. Made Meyerdale for another stop with Judy and did the same as the last – beef jerky and coke. My intention was to make that on a quickie, an in and out in about 15 min, but the rain began to really deluge at that point so I waited in the van for about 25 min to try to sit out the gnarly stuff. Finally got going with a light rain still falling. I dumped all my gear with Judy for fear of getting caught in some really heavy rain. About 10 min down the trail I saw this immense span of bridge going over a valley – and the bridge with completely concrete. So I stopped in the rain, shouldered the bike and walked the ½ to ¾ mile across the bridge. And I was thinking as I was walking across the bridge, had I decided to forgo the bridge and try to bike/hike the valley – RR tracks, freeway, and river – hell that would have taken a good 1-1.5 hrs to do.
So shouldering the bike may have be a bending of the ethics, but Jesus, I only have so much time to try to make this thing go. And that’s when the shit hit the fan with the weather. Once I remounted the bike in the gravel I could see this big swath of dark clouds in the west and I was riding right into them. Yup, within another 10 min the rain went from a moderate level to a torrent. It was raining so hard that I just had to put my sunglasses on so as to protect my eyes from all the muc and water being tossed up by my tires. The trail turned into a flowing river of sand and gravel. My tires were just sinking into the trail like quicksand. Welcome to the jungle! The continued for another 6 miles all the way to my meeting point with Judy at Rockwood. By the time I got to the trailhead parking area I was just coated from head to toe with sand and gravel. My bike was so coated that it was not able to shift properly.
There was this little bike shop at the trailhead, so after I had Judy shoot a few pics of me in all my sandyness, I went to the shop to see if I could borrow a hose to hose the bike and me off. Guy told me: “Three bucks”. Nope! I’ll bloody well clean the thing in the rain with a washcloth dude! So I did just that, and then we headed for a campground a quarter mile down the road. There I was able to not only get a camping spot, but to get hot showers, hose off the bike, and get the 2 lbs of sand out of my hair and out of my cycling gear. Hell, my shoes were so coated with sand that I could not get the ratchet locks to open. Got all that done and then we went to this little dive bar for dinner – last thing I wanted to do was to cook dinner outside in the rain. I was Done with rain for the day. Amazingly enough this little place - the Rock City Café - had some great food with a super price. I filled up on a few Yingling beer and a sub, while Judy got a glass of wine and a fish sandwich. Great little place in a tiny little town.We’re going to head over to the camping area now. I’m in a basement area that’s set up to do wifi, has a pool table and a ping pong table. It’s kind of a hospitality area across the river from the campground. Place is called Husky Haven Campground. Nice little place especially on such a wet, cold day. Talk to you all tomorrow……..Pete