Thursday, September 17, 2009

C&O Tow Path Part Four: Hancock to Silver Spring

I had a good nights sleep in the bunk house and was glad not to have to take down the tent in the morning. While cooking breakfast the thought of making it all the way home had returned. It was 135 miles from home and the previous day had been my longest day at 88 miles. Could I add 47 additional miles to my longest day? I hurried to pack up and at least give the the idea the option of success. My average daily ride was around 85 miles which would put me back in Brunswick. I would push a good pace and see how things were going when I got there.

I had been working on more ways to stay on the bike. After food, the next reason to stop was to rest and stretch. I found that if I stood up on the pedals, pushing one hip as was forward as I could while dropping my heal in the same side as far down as I could, I could stretch my back, thigh, and calf on that side in one motion. I would speed up, stretch one side while coasting then repeat on the other side.

That just left rest as the only reason to stop biking. Given the amount of pain caused by having to start back up again taking a rest would rarely win the argument.

On the way back around the detour I passed a small group of houses that had this sign to great on comers.
"Warning To those who steal from us as we sleep OR ARE WE? Are we watching for you yes! This Neighborhood Don’t Call 911! But you might!"
I think this neighborhood needs a 6th grade English teacher more than an increase in security.

Shortly after passing some turkeys I arrived in Brunswick, roughly 85 miles from Hancock by 1pm. I was staying on the bike and I was flying. Keeping an average of 15.5 mph I rarely stopped for anything. One slight advantage of this section of that the downhill slope of the trail is marginally higher. But the drop is so slight that you never feel like you are going downhill.

I was feeling tired but great. There were times when I was really sucking wind and thought I might have to rest for a while. At these moments I would eat sour patch kids, pull out the ipod and remove my helmet. I am a freak about wearing my helmet but this was a very rare occurrence where I rode without one. The novelty of the wind in my hair, the sugar rush and the kick ass playlist would usually make me forget about the pain.

After passing Harper's Ferry I was confident that I would be sleeping in my bed that night and have an extra day to chill before returning to work. Before this trip, the farthest I had ever ridden was 97 miles while doing the C&O a few years back and here I was pushing for 135.

When I hit Seneca Creek the canal took on the more well groomed look as I approached Great Falls and the more popular parks. I was on fire, I still had 30 or so miles to go but 30 miles never seemed so small a feat.

The down side to reentering the metropolitan area is that people become less and less outgoingly friendly. Up to this point, pleasantries of some kind were traded with almost every single person I encountered on the path. But the closer and closer I got to the city the more people looked like the had a stick up their asses. That's not to say they weren't nice people, it's just that they were in a different place than I was. I was on could ten and they were just trying to burn as many calories as they could before they had to pick up the kids or whatever chore was next up. People is people... people.

Then end of the trail was a few miles further in Georgetown but I was getting off before that. I thought about doing the extra miles to get to Mile 0, but I had been there before. For this trip, mile 0 was my front porch. So when I saw the bridge taking the Capital Crescent Trail over the canal I realized that I would soon be saying goodbye to the river, the canal, and the tow path. I had been on the C&O for four amazing days and had come to rely on it's simplicity. Whatever was going on in my head my eyes were always pointed over at the canal, down at the river, or straight down the path.

So I took a last look at the canal and joined the flood of commuters pushing their way north towards Silver Spring on the smooth paved trail. I found it both surreal and amusing being passed by so many people on road bikes while I trudged along on my fully loaded LHT that seemed to take up the whole lane. Everyone so deep in thought after a long day at work, pushing and pushing to get home and on to the next thing. I imagined myself as a large blood clot slowly tumbling along a major artery as smaller blood cells bounced and dodged around me racing their way through DC's circulatory system.

I made it home unceremoniously. I did my trip and had my adventure with one well earned day to spare. 135 miles that day, 395 in total. I made some calls, took a long shower, and drifted off to sleep, victoriously, in my own bed.


dc dirtbag said...

That bunk house looks pretty cozy!
The screen makes it so no bears try to mess with your cable tension. Perfect solution to a growing problem.

Fat Lad said...

Just caught up, what an ace 4 days, you've inspired me. I'll have to do something similar in the Spring time - Fat Lad

2bikemike said...

So.... did you win your race?

shryke said...

DC has an unhealthy population density. no wonder everyone had a stick up their butt!

You are my cycling hero!

Anonymous said...

It's rude of you to chide others' lack of a sixth grade education when you had so many errors in grammar. You could be nicer. Or, you could read a book.

Cycle Jerk said...

Hence the title of my blog.


Anonymous said...

Found you from the Surly LHT discussion.

Thanks for sharing your story; makes me want to ride from Pittsburgh to DC and back in the spring.

Vannevar said...

Excellent Trip Report, I appreciate your taking the time to write it.

Jerry said...

Sounds pretty cool. Makes my 9 mile ride back and forth to work seem whimpy. One of these days I'll have to join you for a ride......

Unknown said...

Very cool set of articles. I walked the C&O as a teenager, and I am planning on cycling it later this year. Thanks for writing this.