Monday, Williamsport, MD to 17 miles south of Cumberland at Town Creek Aqueduct, MD 63 miles of riding in 5:25 hrs
Another fairly tough day of riding, but this time I covered a bit more ground.
Today started off with a massive BANG --- as a tree in the put-put gold area came crashing down and hit my van. We were eating breakfast and then heard this loud bang and then the crashing sound of the tree, and the very end of the branches hit my van. I actually saw it falling towards the van and thought that we’d had it. But it was just the last few feet of branches that actually landed on the top of the van. Now the paint was ever so lightly scraped, kind of like the finish. But wow, what it could have been were we about 10 feet closer in the parking area to the tree van may have been smashed. Very lucky indeed.
The park people came running over and it seemed they were pretty relieved that we were unharmed. My van? Hell, I guess I could have raised a stink, but shoot, it was just a light surface scrape on one side so I was cool. I hate getting into all the litigation crap that people are on today. No real harm, no foul! No litigation. Done!
I got rolling at about 9 AM. Judy’s back is still no where near good enough to do any riding, so I’m still going to bag it on the early side for the time being such that she’s not in the car driving and waiting all day long. Besides, with the trail conditions this year, these 40-60 mile rides still get me tired. So for the first 25 miles to Hancock it was back to the mudfest that I’d experienced on Saturday – not quite as extensive, but a mudfest nonetheless. It was made even worse by the maintenance vehicles that had been on the trail with theses big dual wheel trucks that just mushed all the water around and created a quagmire left and right. So I was back to dodging all the mud and puddles trying not to get coated in mud. I’d pull the bike up onto the side of the trail, in the weeds to avoid the muckpits. And for the most part that worked pretty well. On the negative side I still had a pretty good headwind out of the west. So that coupled with the rough trail conditions kept my average below 13 mph. And I’ll tell you I’m not dilly-dallying at that pace.
Made it to Hancock in just over 2 hrs, met Judy at the van and went in for a quick lunch of beef jerky, cashews and coke. Oh yea, what a lunch!! Gave Judy direction to the next stop, the Town Creek Aqueduct, about 40 miles up the trail. Took a few sports bars and headed out, this time to not only the mud puddles and muck, but also a good deal of deadfall. The storms of the past several days really put a nasty on the trail right this season. Now I didn’t have to stop to shoulder the bike, but I did have to really slow down and navigate through the mess every now and then.
This section of trail, from Hancock to Cumberland is probably the most remote. It’s situated on the south side of the Green Ridge State Forest, a pretty mountainous area of Western MD. The trail is long and empty pretty much of people except for the occasional group of thru riders with panniers on the bike. Other than that I’d ride for 30-45 min without seeing a soul. Then maybe a group of 2-4 thru riders would go by me pedaling to DC. It was very quiet and very rewarding to ride through this section. Now my big gaff for the day was forgetting to bring a light for the Paw Paw Tunnel – a long stretch of tunnel that’s about ¾ mile long. So long that it’s pitch black inside at the half way point. I was hoping that I’d have the tunnel tomorrow, but I’d forgotten just where it was from last year’s ride. Anyway, I knew as soon as I hit this long uphill stretch of trail that I was about to go into the tunnel with no light.
Rode about the first quarter mile on the bike until it just got so dark that I couldn’t even see my hand in front of me. I just pushed the bike, trying not to hit the wooden fencing with it, and then trying not to hit my head against the side of the rock on my left hand side. Passed a couple people in there, with lights, but that was towards the end where I could see again. All in all, it was no big deal. From there I rode another 5 miles to meet up with Judy. Called it a day at the Town Creek Aqueduct so we could go on a scouting mission for a campground.
And that was about as hard as riding in the mud today. Damn there just wasn’t a thing other than a few primitive sites along the canal path, but no electric, no cell reception, no wifi, no nothing other than porta toilets and well water. I mean these were tucked down in the middle of the mts with not much available. So we drove into Cumberland in hopes of finding a place along the way – Nope. So we stopped for beer and I asked a guy there about camping. He told me there was nothing but a place called Rocky Gap State Park, about 10 miles out on I-68. Hell, we’d already driven 17 miles from my stop point, and now another 10. Initially we started on 68 East, and then just said “hell with that – too far to go”. So we thought about a cheap motel. Did a U and back towards Cumberland. Stopped at this dive of a place just a few miles before Cumberland, and Judy was just totally spooked by it. Have to admit that I’d have stayed there were I solo, but she had a case of the willies, so we continued back into the city. Went to the Towpath visitor’s Center and got the skinny on the motel/hotel situation – all over a hundred bucks – NOPE.
We did get beta on a YMCA in town that charges 10 bucks to camp. Bingo, we were there! Made dinner in the pavilion and I’m here now in the lobby using the wifi rather than my air card. Not a bad deal. We’ll sleep in the van and be very happy we saved a boat load of money.Tomorrow on to the Great Allegheny Trail and to Ohiopyle. I’ve been told that the first 2 miles of the GAT are paved, so I’ll be shouldering the bike or maybe riding railroad ballast to compensate. Until tomorrow………Pete