Thursday, June 23, 2016

C&O Canal Day 2 - Indigo Neck Hiker Biker to Williamsport

It poured down rain last night starting around 4:00 am and continuing until around 7:00. We were dry, snug and happy in our excellent tent. We broke camp and got on the road by 8:00 no problem, but the towpath was mostly a mud pit and no fun at all.

Luckily, half the day was on the Western Maryland Rail Trail, which is paved and glassy smooth.

Breakfast was 15 miles out at Weaver's Restaurant and Bakery, total winner, in Hancock. No racists today.

Hancock also let me restock inner tubes at the bike shop. I lost another tube in the last part of the GAP due to a big pile of slate in the middle of the trail.

The rest of the day was me trying to take pictures of Max by cool canal structures where Max is not making goofy faces. And slogging through mud pits on the towpath.

This one is at Big Pool.

At Four Locks.

At Dam #5.

Our campsite tonight is the Red Roof Inn in Williamsport. Because I want a shower, that's why. It also has a Waffle House in the parking lot.

Max's attitude and demeanor has made a great change in the last couple days. He has learned what it feels like to ride long distances for multiple days in a row, when to rest, and how to eat. He is much more confident and happy. No meltdowns. This is great.

Here is the Strava page for today.

C&O Canal Day 1 - Cumberland to Indigo Neck Hiker Biker

Max and I are continuing on from the GAP and taking the C&O Canal Towpath to DC. The towpath is 187 miles long and we are giving ourselves four days. 

One thing about the towpath is it's not as well maintained as the GAP, and it can be pretty muddy and rough going if it's been raining. Which is has been doing.

Max is very proud of his tough looking bike. He pokes the chunks of mud off with a stick when we take breaks to make his bike lighter and faster.

We had lunch today at the School House Cafe in Oldtown, MD. This is a cafe in an old school building, which is no longer a school.

Max noted that they have a big TRUMP sign in the window. I told him that doesn't necessarily mean the people running the restaurant are nasty racists, and how there are a lot of Republicans in western Maryland, and it may be that they are just supporting the Republican candidate. Also there is nowhere else to eat for 10 miles in any direction.

Then I read the white notice next to the TRUMP sign on the way out. Never mind. They are actual racists. Sigh.

Here is the entrance to the Paw Paw tunnel. This is one of the highlights of the trip, although telling this to Max means that you're going to get an argument about how the tunnel is not high, and it's completely dark inside so it's not light and so it's not a highlight. He was insufferable all afternoon after the Trump sign.

The Paw Paw Tunnel is a highlight, regardless of what Max says. It's 3000 feet long, with a canal running through it.

Here is a Zebra Swallowtail. There were a bunch of them outside the west end of the tunnel.

Max had to look up the ID as soon as we got Internet. We also discovered that the camouflaged butterfly from yesterday on my bike seat has us completely stumped.

Dinner was at Bills Place at Little Orleans. We shared a ham steak and fried chicken. They no longer have T-Bones, because they are too expensive.

I would normally camp at 15 Mile Creek campground across from Bill's Place (which makes it easy to drink beer all night there...) but they are now charging $20 and it's only 3 more miles to the next free hiker biker site, which is exactly the same primitive camping experience. Indigo Neck is this one.

It's also supposed to pour down rain in the early morning, which will make the towpath a mess, so camping here just makes it that much quicker we get to the nice smooth paved Western Maryland Rail Trail.

Here is the Strava page.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

GAP RIde 2016 Day 3 Confluence PA to Cumberland MD

Day 3 was an amazing day. We overcame hills, storms, bonking meltdowns, to complete the GAP trail and Max's first metric century!

Breakfast was at Sisters Cafe in Confluence. Very tasty.

This section of the GAP is more remote, and full of feats of engineering to get coal trains over the Allegheny Mountains. There are lots of bridges and tunnels. This is the approach to the Pinkerton Tunnel, where the Casselman River goes around a bend, and the Western Maryland didn't.

We had showers most of the morning, and we broke out the rain gear. This picture is on the amazing and vertigo-inducing Salisbury Viaduct right before Meyersdale. The severe thunderstorm and torrential downpour started right after we got off the bridge.

We rode through the storm three miles to Myersdale, where we stopped for pizza after drying off with paper towels in the bathroom. This is Take 6 Pizza, it really hit the spot.

The historic bridge-fest which is the GAP trail includes a Bollman Truss right after Myersdale. Bollman Truss bridges were a B&O thing - the big feature of these bridges is they could be manufactured off site, loaded on a railroad car, and assembled in place. They were manufactured at the B&O shops in Baltimore, where the railroad museum is now. The GAP trail is a rail trail following the Western Maryland right of way, this bridge was relocated to it's current location.

Looking like a piece of bark doesn't help if you're sitting on my bike seat.

Here is the Eastern Continental Divide. I had been talking up Big Savage Tunnel all day to Max, and how it is all downhill for 20 miles after the tunnel.

Max: "This is Big Savage Tunnel, isn't it?  These guys said it's all downhill from now on."
Me: "It's not as long as I remember."

Here is the actual Big Savage Tunnel, which is 3000 feet long.

A couple miles later, we cross the Mason-Dixon line, and we are home to Maryland.

It is all downhill after Big Savage Tunnel. 22 miles, 2%. What we learned is even though my T-Bone recumbent can coast down to Cumberland effortlessly at 16 mph, the Campeur is not so efficient and can only coast at 11 mph. But Max's bike is even less efficient, and he had to pedal. Life is pretty unfair sometimes.

But we were very happy at the end. Twenty miles of downhill and no more rain will do that. We only had one brief cloudburst.

Here we are at the Mile 0 marker.

Dinner was at the Crabby Pig, where Max was happy to finally get some plain pasta, and I was happy to get Margaritas, steak and fried oysters.

We are at the Ramada in in Cumberland, which has laundry. All clothes are clean, and all is well.

Today was 64 scenic miles. Here's the Strava page.

GAP Ride 2016 Day 2 - West Newton to Confluence PA

Day two was a wonderful ride through the forest of Ohiopyle State Park. Max: "Did they break up Ohio and make a big pile?" Imagine listening to variations on this for 20 miles or so.

Breakfast was going to be from the snack bag, but we came upon a house next to the trail that would cook up breakfast and coffee for bike riders! Coffee! And toaster waffles! They also had eggs from their backyard chickens, which Max passed on. We regretted this later when he bonked.

It was a really scenic spot. A few old houses by the trail. Everyone has a garden with chickens. If they had Internet, it would be heaven.

Here is what a touring bike on tour should look like. You panniers are supposed to have your laundry from the day before hanging out to dry.

My bike-riding cow orkers and I often discuss how you are supposed to wave at other cyclists on the road, and disparage the riders who ignore you and don't wave. These unfriendly and disparaged riders usually are riding expensive racing bikes and are wearing spandex kits. Well, now I realize that there is another should-you-wave situation. If you are a bike tourist, fully loaded with all the gear and panniers, you do not need to bother with waving to locals out on a day ride on a department store mountain bike. But you always wave to other tourists, although usually you stop and chat them up about trail conditions and where to eat and camp.

I believe this is the cool entrance into Connellsville.

After Connellsville, it's all forest and no towns. Max: "This is what I expected it to be like" followed by more commentary on apocalyptic post-industrial wastelands.

There are lots and lots of bugs.

It's really scenic and beautiful.

Here are people white-water rafting as you come in to Ohiopyle.

Ohiopyle is very small. There is a nice-looking general store/market but Max refused all the food there except for an ice cream cone (bonking meltdown coming later), and I had a pit beef sandwich. My sandwich was revolting. I thought it was roadkill possum. Max said it looked like mulch. We eventually agreed it was probably mulch seasoned with roadkill.

We left Ohiopyle in good spirits with only about 15 miles to go, but then I had a flat, and then I ruined the tube fixing it, then I discovered my first spare tube was the wrong size, and finally I got it fixed with my second and only-remaining spare tube. This left me with no spare tubes and in need of a bike shop. It also meant Max burned through his ice cream cone before we got to Confluence and so he was in a foul mood.

There is an excellent bike shop in Confluence, which is a really nice small town. I restocked on tubes.

Dinner was at the Lucky Dog Cafe, a short walk from the campground, but Max would not settle on this until we had walked a mile through the entire town to make sure there was no place better. There was no other place open. Chicken tenders again.

Margaritas and BBQ for Dad. I was happy, anyway.

Here's our camp site, this is the Outflow campground, which has electricity and showers. So the boy has a charged Nexus and he's happy now, even though I made him shower.

There was no cell coverage for T-Mobile all day.

Fifty miles, all uphill with a gentle grade. Here's the Strava page.

GAP Ride 2016 Day 1 - Pittsburgh to West Newton PA

Here is Max, riding into downtown Pittsburgh to start our great adventure riding the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Towpath.

It's pretty challenging getting through Pittsburgh. We had some trouble finding our way to the bike path out, which involved a half-mile detour through parking lots under a freeway that ended in a grassy path full of sleeping homeless people.

We eventually reached the first segment of the GAP, which is the "Steel Valley Trail" from Pittsburgh to West Newton. It goes through the area which one was filled with steel mills and is now full of empty lots, graffiti, and industrial debris, like this cool railroad car used to transport molten steel.

Max had lots of opinions on this section of the ride, mostly about how it's a very unattractive wasteland, and often smells bad. It will be fun to take him through west Texas some day.

Since I am always trying to put things in a cultural context for him, I asked "Can you imagine what it would be like to grow up in a place like this? Do you think you would grow up to be a nice person, or a Steelers fan?"

Max said "Steelers fan."

Here we are eating lunch at a marina in McKeesport. My kielbasa with sauerkraut was awesome. Max endured some chicken tenders, which he is thoroughly tired of.

Here is the outside of our lunch spot It's right on the trail. Winner winner winner.

Max has declared that since this is the first week off school, there will be no education this week. I am not to take him to museums, make him read history signs along the trail, or have educational discussions. I told him I predict by the end of the week he will be saying things supportive of Donald Trump. He has this look he gives me:

We got to the last restaurant before our campsite pretty early, around 3:00. The Trailside is a favorite, I've stopped here before. They have awesome drink specials. Today's was Bloody Marys.

We hung out in the air conditioning until 5, got a tasty dinner (steak for Max, he's happy to not have chicken tenders) and headed up the road a couple miles to our primitive campsite.

I showed Max how to rinse out his biking clothes and take a sponge bath in the water spigot. We had a small crisis when the battery died on his Nexus and he became very, very bored. We will buy a deck of cards in case this happens again. Cell coverage ended at McKeesport, there was wifi at West Newton.

It was about 40 miles of riding. Here's the Strava page.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

GAP Ride Day 0 - Home to Pittsburgh on the Train

Max and I are bicycle touring. We are riding the Great Allegheny Passage trail from Pittsburgh to Cumberland MD, and then continuing on the C&O Canal Towpath to Washington DC.

There are no cars involved with this trip. We are taking the train to Pittsburgh, and back from Washington.

Here we are, ready to go.

I'm carrying all our stuff on the Campeur. We are camping, and I have cooking gear. The bike plus all gear weighs 100 lbs.

Waiting for the MARC train at the BWI rail station.

The weekend MARC trains now include a bike car. This is fantastic. You just roll your bike onto the train and park it in the bike car. You can sit right next to it.

We took the MARC train to DC, then switched to the Amtrak Capitol Limited to DC. The Capitol Limited also has roll-on bike service - there is a baggage section where you can hang you bikes, and pile your pannier.

We wound up sitting by a group of four women who had just completed the same bike ride we are doing. I got to ask them lots of questions. The bike tourist camaraderie has begun after riding only 4 miles.

Here is Max discouraging me from taking pictures in the observation car.

The train gets in to Pittsburgh at midnight, it was an easy 1 mile ride to our hotel room, almost all on bike paths. Except it was midnight and we were sleepy and didn't know where the bike paths started. It's very hard to figure out how to leave the train station.

Here is our campsite for the night at the way too expensive Spring Hills Suite in downtown Pittsburgh.

The MARC and Amtrak bicycle service is first rate and very easy to use and efficient. It should always be like this. Especially the part where we walked our bikes from the MARC train to the Amtrak train, and spent no time whatsoever in check in and security lines. We put our bikes on the train, and sat down in our seats and left. The airlines should take note.

Strava pages are here:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Overnight NCR Ride to York after Thanksgiving.

There is no rational reason why one would go credit card touring on the Moonlander. Even if most of the ride is on a 40 mile gravel trail. The Moonlander is heavy, slow, and those giant knobby tires have a lot of rolling resistance.

So I rode the Moonlander 70 miles to York, PA and back the next day for no real reason. It was a nice slow ride. Weather mostly in the 50s, with a tiny bit of rain coming back. 

The bag setup worked well. I could probably strap a single person backpacking tent in front of the handlebar bag, and shove a sleeping bag into the seat bag and do the C&O towpath in warm weather. 

I set out right after feeding the chickens and turkeys.

It's always nice to start a ride by going up Gun Road.

I took the Gwynns Falls Trail part of the way through Baltimore. The cool bridge is the Amtrak line, originally the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Here is the Rawlings Conservatory in Druid Hill Park.

I rode through Texas. You can really smell the Texas.

Lunch at Andy Nelsons BBQ in Cockeysville. Perfect halfway point to eat. Thanks to my cow orkers for the tip.

These two interesting apartment buildings are at the trail head in Ashland. They look like old repurposed mill buildings.

 Here is start of the North Central Railroad bike trail in Ashland. This is a very nice trail. It goes 40 miles right to downtown York. It is smooth and scenic. It's follows a rail right-of-way the whole way, so there are no big hills.

This is in Freeland, MD. Each little town on the railroad had a hotel and station, many of them are still there.

Here is the state line, marked by a railroad post showing the division boundary.

Right over the line in New Freedom, the railroad tracks are still there and in use for excursion trains. I gather this old switcher is to push the steam engine and excursion cars into the shops.

Here is the excursion train. The engine was fired up and working when I was there, although I didn't see it go anywhere.

Hanover Junction, PA, which has nice trailside bathrooms. 10 miles to the end.

Here is the tunnel. This is six miles from the end, and cuts across a bend in Codorus Creek. The rail line follows the Gunpowder Falls upstream in Maryland. New Freedom is the summit, which divides the Gunpowder watershed from the Codorus Creek watershed. The trail follows Cordorus Creek to York.

Finished in York. Just under 70 miles. Here is the Strava page:

The campsite for the night was the fabulous Rodeway Inn. $54. Homeless woman hanging out in lobby. Resident guests shooting off fireworks in the parking lot. Very convenient downtown location, though.

York has a surprisingly vibrant downtown! Who would have thought? I walked around deciding where to eat. The White Rose Tavern has a very popular happy hour, but it was loud and crowded. I settled on Otto's Kitchen and Cocktails, which was relaxing, not crowded, low key, with tasty food and stiff drinks.

This is chicken pot pie, and a margarita for the electrolytes.

Still hungry, so I got some chicken and waffles and a Vieux Carre, which is a deadly concoction of rye, cognac, and some other stuff.

I didn't last too long after the long ride and the cocktails. But I got up really early to start the next day. I did some wandering around looking for breakfast. I had high hopes for the Blue Moon Cafe York, hoping it was an outpost of the one in Fells Point, but it was closed. So I went to the very homey Central Family Restaurant.

This is Cordorus Creek at sunrise in the middle of town.

It seems there was a marathon on the NCR when I rode home. I passed every single runner in the race. Some of them twice, after I stopped for breaks. Here are the leaders in Monkton, getting near the end. "On Your Left!"

I hit Andy Nelson's coming and going.

This is one of my favorite old houses. It's octagonal. It's in historic Lutherville.

I rode through downtown to get home. Maryland Ave to Cathedral Street. The brownstone is the Garrett Mansion, home to the Baltimore Engineers Club. Debra and I got married there.

And finished at home. Here is the Strava page:

There is no rational reason to ride the Moonlander to York.