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!!!



  1. Thank you Jim for telling us your traveling story. I am reliving this adventure with you as I rode GAPCO about 4 years ago. I think that's a bull snake - we saw one also - and they are harmless.

    1. Thank you Annie for following along. I enjoy putting together the story after it all unfolds.

  2. I know too well that feeling when the trip comes to an end. But you've got something to look forward to.....your retirement. Keep up the good spirit and your health.....and one day you'll ride 4 weeks or longer.

  3. Hmmm pie, putting a sharpie mark on your seat post is super smart Jim and way to listen to your body telling something wasn't quite right. Chapeau on the trip! it was fun to follow along.

  4. Enjoyed your adventure Jim. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to hearing about the next one.

  5. Hey Jim--

    Just got around to reading this. Enjoyed hearing about your trip and glad everything went pretty smooth for you. My 15 year old son and I rode a portion of the GAP the week before you. We rode June 21 through June 25. I couldn't remember exactly the dates you were riding, so I was watching for a green Surly. We left the car in West Newton but rode both directions everything between Pittsburgh and Rockwood... 216 total miles in 5 days. If you started the 25th and rode to Connellsville, there is a chance we could have passed between Connellsville and West Newton, but I suspect we were done riding by the time you got to that stretch. Had we been more organized, perhaps we could have met for lunch in West Newton before we departed. We had a great time together. In fact, he wants to do it again. I have not ridden the C & O yet. I considered riding it this fall, but I don't think that will work out. I am working on a father/son group ride on the GAP next June. I have 2 other father/son pairs that are interested in joining us if we can coordinate all of our schedules. I just finally finished up the blog post about our trip... that is what prompted me to hop on over here and see if you had recorded your trip. Enjoy reading about your travels. Keep pedaling and writing!