Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Day 7 2017

I crawled out this morning with those mixed feelings about the last day of my ride. Happy that I accomplished the ride and distance and ready to be back and visit with my sister and Mark and do something else than ride a bike, but, a bit sad that my ride was coming to a conclusion and a return to all the stuff that is everyday life. I love the simplicity of a bike tour. Eat, Sleep, ride, repeat. Your mind does focus on the things that are going on with riding. Am I drinking enough? What is the mileage to the next stop break? What is my average speed and then the time math in your head starts the calculations. Is that picture worthy? What is that little noise coming from the bike? What music should I listen to now? Pretty simple stuff that the ride tends to work out on its own!! What is up with the little complaint from my (insert body part here!!). Speaking of that, yesterday my knee was complaining a bit. I thought about it for a bit and then checked my seat height. Sure enough, my seat post had slipped a bit from bouncing down the towpath. I had a sharpie mark on the post for the shop guys to get my seat back in the right place when they rebuilt after shipping. It had slipped down about an inch and when I moved it back up up and tightened it all it was an amazing feeling and the knee ache went away immediately.

My neighbor Jim was packed up a little earlier than me and bode me a fair well and "good life". He was heading for the Old Dominion & Washington trail to take him into DC. It is a paved trail. He was tired of the towpath and the bumpy ride. He had a Soma touring bike and was running 32 tire size. 32's are fine for the GAP (you can ride anything on GAP!!) but I would recommend at least a 38 or more on C&O, especially if you catch a rain week while you are here.

Packed up and brewed up a quick breakfast. I had the Mountain House breakfast mix of eggs, sausage, peppers, potatoes and this was the first time I have been disappointed in a Mountain House meal. It was OK, but I would have been happier with my regular oatmeal.

Down the trail I go!!
 This was going to be a shorter day that I planned when I set this trip up. 38 miles to go to return me to White's Ferry where I started. I had planned to spend the morning riding over to the Antietam Battlefield site and tour it. By this morning I just did not want to add on the 25 miles to ride over there and back and the miles riding about the memorial site. I'll just add it to the list of things to do the next time I am back!!

This was an interesting set of locks. The first lock brought the boats up to a new level and also turned them 45 degrees to the right. The next lock immediately turned them 45 degrees back to the left. a very cool solution to elevation and direction change of the course of the river. The canal had to stay close to the river because it needed the water flow from the river to fill the canal, or the river to take away excess water in the canal. Aquaducts and pump houses were built to maintain this balance.
You can see the towpath in this picture taking a sharp right turn.
I took a little break here next to the river. The main flow of the Potomac is out in the distance, this is one of the many side flows down through rocks that occurs.
I arrive at Harper's Ferry which is bigger town along the towpath and a favorite place for many people to stop. It is known as the site of John Brown's resurrection attack on the federal armory with the purpose to arm slaves to fight for freedom. Harpers Ferry is also a bit of a tourist town. There are stairs to lug your bike up and over the river to get from towpath to the town. No Thanks!! I really do not need to go see a another tourist town. Plus it was getting close to lunchtime, but another town was just down the path about 45 minutes away!!

 Brunswick was my next goal for a snack to get me to the finish line!! I roll into town and some nice ladies at the farmer's market going on directed me to an old church turned into a coffee shop and....oh my.....ice water, chocolate shake, and multi-berry pie!!! Cyclist go power!!!

Back out on the towpath after my break I knew I had about 20 miles to knock out but there was still things to look at.

Turtle's checking out the warm sunshine!!

 Some interesting looking mushrooms!!
This lock house had an interesting story. The family that lived here started in 1917. I forgot to write the family name down but the father had one of those nickname names like Corky. Anyway, he lived in the lock house and operated this lock from 1917 to 1924 when the canal closed. What was interesting is that he continued to live in the lock house until he died in 1962. The canal company always wanted family men to occupy the lock houses and operate the locks. It gave a stability to the operation. They were given a small stipend ( about $600 dollars per year) and a small bit of acreage to grow vegetables. They used the produce to trade with the boatsmen for other needed supplies.
For my friend Teesie, on my last day, my first snake of the trip!!
This next lock is not a lock but an aquaduct where the boats floated over the river in a water bridge. Today the trail goes right through the middle of it.
 There is a section that you can drive to the towpath and the Park service has a concessionaire that has boats to float the canal and be towed by teams of mules.

Pretty soon I find myself back at White's Ferry and I closed the big loop and my trip was finished. I rode the Ferry across the Potomac and had about a four mile road ride back into Leesburg to the bike shop. Ironic, because the only time it rained all week was during this last road ride back into town.

 I left my bike there to be shipped back and Mark came and picked me up. I cleaned up with a shower and Mark and Jennifer and I headed out to a cool brewery called Vanish. They had good beer choices and some live music and food trucks. Great way to celebrate!!

Final Thoughts??
It was a great trip and one I am so glad I rode. There were a few more logistics to have to arrange to pull this off in a tight schedule, but it all worked and was worth it. I, of course would have liked to have more time and reduced my daily mileage to take in a bit more of the history of the areas. That is what I have always wanted in my bike tours, an open ended time frame. That's what retirement will get me in a few more years. It always feels good to ask your body to perform physically and it answers the bell. I will never take that for granted as I see many of my peers that could not do this type of ride. Motivates me to keep working on physical conditioning even when I don't have a trip planned, plus it just makes for a better life!!
I want to say thank you to those of you that followed along to read. I enjoy doing this type of journal and it just stamps a memory for me with reflection of the ride right now plus I can look back and read a few years from now and re-live it all.
Everybody take care and find those tailwinds!!!


Monday, July 10, 2017

Day 6 2017

I have to tell you, I could get used to this high level living. After a wonderful night of sleep I get the bike all packed up and then get called in for breakfast. Bill has made an egg dish of a puffy pastry that is hollowed out and filled with eggs and crab meat and cheese. A fresh bowl of cut up fruit and seasoned potatoes to go with. And then he gives us each two bran muffins to take down the trail. What a stay I have had!!
I continue down the Western Maryland Rail trail. It runs about ten miles south of Hancock before it merges again with the towpath.
 I am just zipping along and come upon this small graveyard. Many of the stones were unmarked without names or dates. There were two or three that were marked with a name and had Civil War dates with them. They did not say if they were soldiers or not. So interesting. There was no plaque or fence or sign of who took care of this sacred place.
Back on the towpath I was enjoying the first morning without any layers except a t-shirt. I knew it was going to get warm today but that is OK with me!! Riding the towpath was different than GAP. GAP is so well maintained that you can cruise along and look around knowing your footing is not changing. On the towpath you have to pay attention to what you are doing. There are rocks and tree roots and dips and water holes. I found it to be so much more interesting. I felt like I was a real bike rider, engaged with my ride and the trail. Now, it was not hard riding like single track, just interesting and attention holding.

The locks and the houses had history to them. Many of the locks were just the stonework of the lock left. A few of them were almost completely overgrown and being reclaimed by the forest. And then, there were some that the lockhouse was renovated and restored and the area around the lock was mowed and maintained.
This was an interesting series of locks. The area and former town was called Four Locks. There were four locks in a very short distance, maybe 300 yards. There was a thriving town here of 8 to 10,000 people but it all went away when the canal closed down. This always amazes me. That a town can just dry up and cease. It was the same thing in Colorado up around Fremont pass and Leadville. Because of gold and silver the population was over 50,000 people but none of it remains except an EPA superfund cleanup site.

Today there were a few more views of the Potomac river, which I like.
Stonework on this lock was beautiful with this aquaduct built in.
I then roll up on a very interesting section of the towpath. This part of the Potomac features limestone cliffs that come right down to the river. The engineers and surveyors knew they could not blast out miles of solid rock to continue the canal so they did the next best thing and built a dam across the river and created the Big Pool. They hacked and blasted out enough of the cliff to have a towpath alongside the river and floated the boats up the river as this part of the canal. The Park service has built a nice hanging concrete path in place here so the towpath can continue through here!! There is a lock at each end of this section to move the boats from canal to river and back.

Bear with me now because I took a lot of pictures through this section. Notice the house on stilts that was raised and lowered depending on the flood waters that would rage through at times. The dams were not built to hold back extra large volumes of water, just enough to have the freight boats be able to negotiate.

I roll into the town of Williamsport for some lunch and find my friends John and Theresa sitting at a little cafe. I enjoy a very delish BLT and some fresh iced water bottles to head back down the trail.
There was an area here that had a few B&B's right close to the trail and somebody has taken an interest in mowing the canal. Here the canal looked like it could be part of a golf course!!

Another bridge for my friend Richard that I passed under
I reached my destination to the Antietam Creek primitive campsite and get set up. I enjoy this evening because I made camp by 5:00 and had a lot of time before dark for once on this trip. I fixed up a dinner of peanut butter on a flat bread and a Mountain House beef stroganoff dinner. I got to visiting with the guy next to me. His name was also Jim and he was getting to the end of a cross country bicycle ride. He was from Florida. His last year has been interesting. He retired and then got divorced. He gave (his words!) his house to his wife and kept his sailboat which he lived on until it was destroyed by a tropical storm. He rode the Amtrak to Seattle from Florida, bought a bike and started off on a ride back to Florida. I could have listened to his stories all night!! Made my ride seem pretty non-eventful. HaHa!!
Good campsite!! Close to the river and no Trains!! I slept well.
Until next time!!
Thanks for reading!!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Day 5 2017

The primitive campsites the the Park service provide along the towpath are an OK set up as long as you are prepared. They offer a cistern with potable water with a pump that brings it to the service. The water is purified with iodine so if you are sensitive to that you would have to haul your water in. In my site last night I shared with a troop of boy scouts riding the towpath earning their cycling merit badge. No problem as there was plenty of room. They have a port-a-john at each of these sites and maintain them pretty well as I found all the ones I had to use during the ride to be acceptable clean-wise.
I got packed up and brewed up my usual 1st breakfast of hot oatmeal. My stove of choice is a Jetboil because all the camp cooking I do just involves boiling water to add to instant food. The Jetboil stove is very, very efficient in doing that. It boils up 16 ozs of water in a minute and a half, maybe two. Plus, it cools off fast so you can pack it back up quickly before you can even eat your food.
I was excited to explore the towpath today. My route today will take me along to the town of Paw Paw and a brief visit to West Virginia before I have to tackle the detour up and over the closure of the Paw Paw tunnel, ending in the town of Hancock, MD.

Here we go!!

First turtle in the trail of the trip!!
 He (or she, how do you tell??) was moving along towards the edge of the trail so really did not need rescuing.
The canal is with you as you pedal and usually is changing for something to look at. I would estimate after the whole trip is finished that 50% of the canal still has water in it and the other is grown with trees and brush. There are a few places where it has been very reclaimed by the forest and you can only tell the slight curve of the former dug out canal. Other parts have water and a very active bio-habitat going on with birds and plants and fish and other creatures.

The locks and the lockhouses continue to be an interesting thing to view as I roll along. The trail is very flat until you come to a lock and then you get a little downhill boost after the lock. Remember, heading west to east on the trail is heading down stream of the Potomac River. The river is always on the right of me with the canal on the left. I wish for a few more views of the river but the forest is just too thick!!
 Most of the time the trail takes you along side of the locks but every now and then the trail rolls down into the canal and you get to ride into the lock. the stone work construction is amazing that it is still together after over 150 years. 
I reach Paw Paw and ride the 1/2 mile or so into town to find some lunch. I find a funky little diner that is in an old brick house but the food was fine. She iced up my water bottles for the hike-a bike that I was facing.

The Park service was doing some rock scaling around the entrances to the Paw Paw tunnel so it was closed for about a month. Too bad because it looks to be an interesting experience to ride through. The canal and path going through the mountain in a tunnel. I'll just have to come back!!!
The detour involves a 2.5 mile hike-a-bike on a trail up and over the ridge that the the tunnel goes under. It starts bad for me when I almost can not get up the steep, gravelly footing, path to get up on the trail. Then it was a steep, sweat-fest for the mile of push-a-bike up to the top of the ridge.

I rounded up over the top and hopped on to ride down the back side. Whoa.....too steep at the top!!! I had brakes squeezed tight and still could not stop!! I turned it into the hillside and hopped back off before any crashing ensued!! As I hiked down I did the math. When I checked all my gear for my Amtrak ride it was 46 pounds, the bike I am guessing weighs about 32 to 35 pounds, and I go at 215, so, almost 3 bills rolling down the trail. No wonder the brakes could not hold!! After the first 200 yards or so the trail mellowed out and I could jump on and ride!!
All fun (?) things must end and I was back on the towpath heading for Hancock.
About ten miles before Hancock there is an alternate trail called the Western Maryland rail trail. It is a paved trail that parallels the towpath. I jump up on that and my average speed jumps up 3 MPH.
 This is good as I am feeling the effects of 50 plus miles on the towpath plus my little hike-a-bike route. I have decided I would find a bed for tonight because I don't see any campground sites in Hancock. Plus three nights sleeping on the ground and my train station chair night it was time to treat myself!! I roll into town and I am studying the map where they pinpoint the food and lodging and services available in town. A couple roll up that I have been passing back and forth for the last two days, John and Theresa. They are from the DC area and doing the same ride as me. They are strong cyclists and are faster than I am but stop at most towns and locks and read the history and take pictures so I pass them and sure enough they catch me out on the trail. They have a reservation at a B&B and tell me I should come with them and see if they have an extra room available. Turns out they do and my goodness......what a beautiful old house Bill and Darlene have renovated into a fantastic B&B. 1828 House is the name of it and I highly endorse it!! Small world stuff here.....I filled out my registration card and Bill looked at it and Said "Estes Park??". I said "yes, have you heard of it?" He told me that his daughter and son-in-law lived there and had been there many times!!
It was a great find and an example of cyclists being friendly to help each other out. There was a nice place right across the street to eat. A shower and  clean sheets and a beautiful bed, I slept soundly!!

We'll pick up there for tomorrow.
Thanks for reading along!!