Tuesday, September 29, 2020

GAP/C&O Day 7 - DC to Home

 Home now. I was really feeling it after the last day of the towpath. I was very sore from all the rough towpath surface. But after some coffee in my dubious DC hotel room, I was ready for the last day of riding.

I took a pretty meandering route home. Part of the reason was I wanted to see how fit I was for a regular day of bike touring on typically hilly roads, instead of the rough but flat towpath.

Another reason was to expand my "Big Square" on the Veloviewer site.

I'm now up to a 21x21 square! This is so exciting!

I basically went up to Olney, then on 108 across the Patuxent, then to Savage for a COVID test at the firehouse. Then to Cindy's Spirits to resupply tequila for the Ravens on Monday Night Football and grab and ice-cold shower beer to celebrate the end of the ride.

Lunch was some ceviche at a nice Mexican restaurant in Layhill, which had outdoor seating.

That's all the pictures, I was pretty bad at taking them today. I left DC on Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park, which was terrific. It's closed to motor vehicles due to the pandemic.

The final day was a bit over 50 miles, with 2800 feet of climb. I took a slow, easy pace. I felt good, finished strong, no problems.

Totals for the trip:
8 days 
445 miles
4 nights in hotels
3 nights camping

Here's the Strava track: https://www.strava.com/activities/4125185135

Sunday, September 27, 2020

GAP/C&O Day 6 - Brunswick to DC

 OK, so today was supposed to be a bit shorter, but it turns out I had to start the day by riding 2.5 in the wrong direction all uphill.

It seems all the bouncing around on the rough towpath loosened up the screws, and a screw that holds the front rack on fell out altogether, as did a screw that hold on the rear fender. The screw for the front rack is kinda critical.

Luckily, there is an Ace Hardware in Brunswick, and even more luckily they open at 9:00 AM on Sunday morning. Ace is the best. I just wish Home Depot would die in a fire so we could have more Ace Hardware stores.

Here's my bike out front of Ace waiting for a nice new bolt for my front rack. Mission success on this.

The rear fender was more problematic, since there is a clamp that fell off with the screw. But this is not a crisis, because I always bring some duct tape with me when touring.

I recall that this is not the first time I have gone to Ace Hardware to buy screws for the bike rack to replace ones that have fallen out, believe it or not. I think the lesson here is I need to start bringing some spare screws with me. And check to make sure everything is tight every couple days.

So my emergency repair cost me five miles and an hour and a big climb, but no big deal really. It was back on the towpath, where the new smooth surface lasted all the way to Edwards Ferry, 30 miles from DC. 

Here is one of the many viaducts that carry the canal over rivers it needs to cross. I think this is the Monocacy River. 

Lunch was a backpacker meal at Horsepen Branch, the last of the hiker-biker sites before DC. It hit the spot. 

Ten miles later, I rode through Great Falls. Here is my attempt at a panoramic photo.

And at the end, I climbed out of Georgetown and up to Kalorama, where the buildings are really beautiful, and nobody built a CubeSmart next door.

I'm staying at the very dubious Windsor Park Hotel, a couple blocks north of the picture above. It was the cheapest option in the middle of DC. Amid all the embassies and fancy apartments, there is this old hotel, which is a very bare-bones operation. No frills whatsoever, bike doesn't fit in the elevator, so it's chained up in the side alley (out of view of the public), and the elevator barely works anyway. I hope there is coffee downstairs somewhere tomorrow morning. Dinner was takeout from the sushi restaurant around the corner, so that's a win.

Here is the Strava track: https://www.strava.com/activities/4121457774

GAP/C&O Day 5 - Hancock to Brunswick

 Today started with the last 10 miles of sweet, smooth, paved Western Maryland Rail Trail. The WMRT end about 2 miles from Fort Frederick. I decided to ride on the road up a big hill and then through Fort Frederick, both to avoid bumpy towpath, and because Fort Frederick is cool.

Then it was back to the bumpy but scenic towpath. 

We planned to take a break in Williamsport, but they redid the viaduct and eliminated the footbridge across the canal. To go to Williamsport you have to ride a mile or so to a bridge (past the bridge you can see) and then backtrack.

We decided to take a break at the picnic table by the bridge. This is by a park with soccer fields, with many games going on (no masks), and right by were we were there was a dog owner get together with people without masks hanging out with dogs without masks.

We stopped an hour later at this hiker biker site right before Shepherdstown and ate the last of the pepperoni rolls.

At Shepherdstown, the most amazing think happened. The towpath became smooth. It has been resurfaced with this amazing fine gray crushed stone. It's almost as smooth as asphalt. Nearly 20 miles of wonderful smoothness. It was such easy riding that it took a really spectacular view to make me stop to take a picture. This is at Harpers Ferry.

We had 72 miles to cover today. But instead of 10 miles of paved rail trail, and 60 miles of rough towpath, we had only 40 miles of rough towpath! So we went much faster than expected and got in at 4:00 instead of 5:30 like I was thinking.

Jim is now done. His wife is coming to pick him up and they are going to a winery.

I am staying here at the Brunswick Family Campground in my tent, and eating a backpacker meal. Life is good.

Here is the Strava track: https://www.strava.com/activities/4116196651

Friday, September 25, 2020

GAP/C&O Day 4 - Cumberland to Hancock

 We're at the Super 8 in Hancock. When you go up to the desk to check in, the nice lady working here will eventually notice that you are wearing a mask, and then gradually it will dawn on her that maybe she should be wearing a mask too, and then she will go back in the office and rummage around for awhile, then finally emerge with a mask on to check you in. The parking lot here is full of giant fancy pickup trucks with huge TRUMP flags mounted in the back. 

We rolled out of Cumberland around 8:30. The Fairfield Inn is right next to the trail. So convenient. Almost everyone staying there appeared to be bike touring.

It seems Maryland has banned coffee machines in motel rooms because pandemic. So you have to go downstairs to get coffee. The Fairfield has put the coffee behind the front desk. So when you wander downstairs at 6:30 half asleep because you have had no coffee and have forgotten that face masks even exist, they will hand you a mask and not give you coffee until you are wearing it. This is clever.

The ride today started with 45 scenic and historic miles on the very rough and bumpy C&O towpath. These pictures are about 10 miles from Cumberland where Jim had to fix a flat, so I sat around and took pictures.

We stopped for lunch right before the Paw Paw tunnel. There is a little park there with picnic tables. We ate some of our Pepperoni Rolls from Caporale's Bakery in Cumberland, and fruit, yogurt, and bagels from our breakfast go-bag from the Fairfield, which I like more and more.

The Paw Paw tunnel is a tunnel with a canal running through it. You don't see that every day.

It was especially dark and scary today, and the towpath is in worse shape than I've every seen it. It's barely rideable. I hear there are going to close it next year for a thorough renovation. All the holes in the brick walls do not inspire confidence.

Here is the exit to the Paw Paw tunnel, with boy for scale. I so wish I had thought of taking this picture when Max and I rode this 5 years ago.

We took a break at Bill's Place in Little Orleans, which is a favorite stop. We sat on the porch for awhile.

This is where we left the bumpy, unpaved towpath for the smooth paved Western Maryland Rail Trail, which in the last couple years has been extended to Bill's Place. Except for the Indigo Tunnel, where bats live. That is blocked by giant iron grates, and you have to ride around it for two miles on the towpath. But it is so incredibly great switching to the WMRT. We get 10 more miles of it tomorrow morning, to Fort Frederick.

We were in to Hancock by 4 pm.

There is a really nice restaurant in Hancock called Buddy Lou's. Full bar, great food, and many socially distant picnic tables outside. So we decided to walk the 0.7 miles to Buddy Lou's and when we are almost there, we run into four guys we met riding the trail today walking the other way. They said Buddy Lou's is closed because one of the servers tested postive for COVID yesterday. Crap.

There are not many other open businesses in Hancock these days. You can buy antiques, but the store with these guys in the window might not actually be in business any more. Go figure.

Anyway, our long, sad hike back to the Super 8 goes right by this Sheetz gas station and beer store next door. Dinner was a couple brats, some fried mozzarella sticks, and a Yuengling tall boy.

I wish I was in a tent after eating a backpacker meal today.

Here is today's Strava page:

Thursday, September 24, 2020

GAP/C&O Day 3 - Confluence to Cumberland

We are at the Fairfield Inn in Cumberland. It was another fantastic day of perfect weather and spectacular scenery.

Jim went Frostburg State College (now University. Jim: "I'm glad I didn't graduate from FU") 10 miles up the road, so we had to do a couple things for College Days Nostalgia purposes. 

First, we had to get some Pepperoni Rolls from Caporale's Bakery, which we will eat on the road for lunch in the wilds of Western Maryland where there are no restaurants. This was another mad rush because they close at 5:00 and we didn't realize this until we could connect to the Internet via the Fairfield Inn Wifi at 4:45.

Second, we had to get some Chili Dogs from Curtis' Famous Weiners. See Jim? He is happy because he is full of weiners.

(Yes, spellcheck has informed me that this culinary delicacy is spelled "wieners". I had to override it.)

Those are Pepperoni Rolls strapped to the back of my bike.

On the way back to the hotel, we grabbed some beer at the new brewery which is basically across the parking lot. Then did laundry. We are all set for the rest of the ride.

Usually when you leave Confluence, you cross the river on the bike trail on a railroad bridge. For whatever reason, we left this time on the regular road, and I realized you can still make out "Western Maryland Railway" painted on the bridge. 

I love to find these surviving signs of historical railroads.

Around 10:30, Jim had to take a work call. Which he did beside the trail.

Of course as soon as he is on the call, a train comes by. LOL.

While I'm waiting around, I noticed the really cool super-tiny mushrooms growing out of the top of a post.

Sometimes it is good to be forced to stop and notice things.

One scenic highlight of the day was the Salisbury Viaduct, right before Meyersdale. Here's the entrance.

And here a view from out on the start of it. It's 1700 feet long, and 100 feet above the valley below. It was built in 1911. No vertigo issues here. None at all. Nope.

Those windmills in the distance on on Big Savage Mountain. Cumberland is on the other side of that mountain. But no worries. We don't have to ride over the mountain. We ride through it!

Here's Jim approaching the entrance to the Big Savage Tunnel.

It's 3000 feet long. And when you get out of it, you see the panoramic view at the top of this post, and IT'S ALL DOWNHILL 22 MILES TO CUMBERLAND!!!!

There is no need to stop, and actually no need to even turn the pedals. You can coast the whole way. Unless of course there are women drinking beer on horseback blocking your way.

You don't see this on our local trails. Western Maryland is a special place. Hi ladies!

It's also worth stopping to take a picture of the "Lover's Leap" rocks just before Cumberland.

So here we are, done with the Great Allegheny Passage, at Mile 0.

And here is the campsite for tonight.

Here is the Strava page for today's ride. Check out the elevation profile!

GAP/C&O Day 2 - Connellsville to Confluence

 It's 1:30 in the afternoon. I'm starting this post early because I have a great deal of time to kill today.

My friend Jim is meeting up with me this afternoon to join the tour for a few days. Since he couldn't get off work on Tuesday, he rented a car this morning one way to Uniontown, and he's going to ride 20 miles or so from there to just past Connellsville, on busy roads with big hills. Then we are going to ride on the trail for 25 miles to Confluence for the night.

Since my campground was only a couple miles before Connellsville, today is been an exercise in killing time. Which does not involve much killing time on the Internet, because the cell coverage is very slow, especially for uploading photos.

So I dawdled around breaking camp until around 11:00, sitting in the nice warm sun. Then I rode into Connellsville and got some pulled pork nachos for lunch, at a nice place called The Kickstand Kitchen that caters to people riding the GAP and has picnic tables in the back. 

Then I rode around town to find a place to sit where I can recharge devices. I scouted the primitive campground right at the edge of town, but it has no electric. It does have a neat old B&O caboose, some Adirondack shelters, and it's right behind a supermarket and pizza shop. Noted for future reference.

I'm now sitting at a nice picnic pavilion overlooking the river, which has an outlet at every picnic table. It's 1:45. I probably have another hour and a half to wait. Fingers crossed that we won't be pitching camp in the dark.

(Finishing this up a day later, since there has been no Internet)

Jim texted me when he got on the road in Uniontown, so I rode out to where he would joint the trail around 3:00. 

Right by where I was waiting for Jim, there was an old Metal Post of Obvious Significance. I know this because it has a shelter built to protect it by a local Eagle Scout troop, who thoughtfully put their name on a placard on the shelter. So what's the metal post for? Beats the hell out of me. The Eagle Scouts didn't bother to explain the significance of the metal post. It must be obvious to them.

Anyway, Jim showed up around 3:15, way earlier than I expected. No problem knocking off the 25 miles to Confluence before dark.

Ohiopyle is halfway to Confluence. For those unfamiliar with Ohiopyle, it's a big center for outdoor recreation due to the nearby rapids in the Yoghiogheny River, and the GAP trail, and the Laurel Highlands hiking trail.

And it's completely deserted, which is very sad and bizarre.

So around 6:00 we got to Confluence to the Outflow Campground, which is an Army Corps of Engineers site next to a huge dam. We had our tents set up, and some local guy comes by on his bike and chats us up. "Where should we eat?" There are lots of restaurants in town (normally) but he lets us know most of them are closed either because of the pandemic, or because it's Wednesday. But there is a pizza place in the gas station in the center of town, but they close at 7.

So we hustled over to the pizza place in the gas station. We just got there in time, I got some wings and Jim got a meatball sub. We had to eat inside.

But because of the rushing around, I didn't get a chance to take a picture of our campsite until after dark.

This is a pretty nice campsite. There is a dedicated hiker/biker area, no reservation required, and nobody there to collect the $8 fee. The real great part of camping here is lots of good birds. There was a Great Horned Owl calling all night, and an Eastern Screech Owl calling before dawn.

Here is the Strava track for today:

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

GAP/C&O Day 1 - Pittsburgh to Connellsville

 I'm at the KOA a mile before Connellsville, 58 miles down the trail.

For just $18, I get to pitch my tent in the bike tourist area, take a shower, cook dinner and eat it on the picnic table, charge all devices from the outlets right by my tent, and connect to the Internet on fast wifi.


I rode by three primitive campsite with nothing but pit toilets, not even water, holding out for a campsites that would have cell coverage. Every time I rode by a primitive site, I mentally criticized myself for not staying at the beautiful primitive site because I want Internet. And feeling doom that I will end up at the Comfort Inn in Meyersdale. But I am now camped. And I get a shower. Win win win.

It was a late night last night for me, so I wasn't fast getting going in the morning, especially since it was really cold out. So I dawdled around until just before 10, and it turned out to be a super nice day, temps around 70, and sunny. 

(Picture of Pittsburgh)

My plan here is to do good social distancing, so I'm avoiding eating in restaurants, unless I think it's safe. Lunch was a score, at Rich's Parkside Inn, right next to the trail in Boston, PA, and picnic tables in the parking lot. I was the only person sitting out there.

My favorite restaurant on this part of the trail, The Trailside in West Newton, was crowded, tables on the outdoor balcony too close together, and I went by it too early for dinner, and too late for lunch. So not this time. 

So for dinner, I had a backpacker Beef Stroganoff meal I cooked at my campsite on my camp stove. It was delicious!

There are three families doing long distance bike tours in the campsite with me. Lots of good stories to share. The Campeur is getting much admiration.

Here is the Strava track for today: