Wednesday, September 16, 2009

C&O Tow Path Part Three: Cumberland to Hancock

After spending a satisfying hour in Cumberland, I headed back toward DC. My goal for the day was to get to Hancock MD, which would be about a 90 miles. Since I was doing the trip solo, millage was something I had plenty of time to reflect on. My mind would wander but every mile marker and town was a reminder of my position, how far I had come, and how far I had to go. Don't get me wrong, I was having a great time and not stressing at all. I took pride in every mile and was constantly looking forward to the next one.

After the hard push to Cumberland I was taking it a little slower on the return. When I got back to Paw Paw I stepped it back up. Only stopping now and again for a picture. I realized the key to longer miles was to allow myself to keep moving. If I stopped for longer than a minute or two, the pain of having to start again was amazing at times.

In Cumberland I bought a second stem bag that was a little larger. The one I had was only large enough for a camera and cliff bar. This new one was large enough to carry a variety for foods that would keep me from having to stop and get items off the back of the bike. Peanut M&Ms, cashews, cliff bars, and jerky could easily fit in the new bag. One addition that made a huge difference was Sour Patch Kids. I must give thanks to Jill Homer from Up In Alaska for mentioning them. The intensely sour sugar rush would always lift my spirits when I started to drag, both emotionally and physically. I took smaller stem bag and reversed it, attaching it seat post. This way I still had easy access to the camera.

Atop one of the many aqueducts in ruin. The concept of running a canal over a stone bridge over a river is still a little hard to imagine especially in the 1820s. I guess I should thank the Romans.

Some time mid day I almost ran over this descent sized copper head. I'm guessing it was a copper head only because it's head was copper. I had to get a stick and push him off the trail. I had just passed a couple on a tandem recumbent and didn't want the two of them to cross paths.

This little guy hitched a ride for about 25 miles.

Around mile 140 I stopped in at Bill's Place to refill the water bottles. Bill's is a famous institution of the tow path. It has been around for ever and so has Bill. He was telling me that he had cub scouts come in during a camping trip and 35 years later they would return as den leaders heading trips of their own.

Taken with the ShakeyCam

I was just heading in for water and was eager to keep moving. At this point Hancock was only 15 miles away and I had covered 75 miles by 3pm. I was feeling great and was thinking of pushing it further. A thought kept sneaking in that I might be able to make it all the way home by the next night, being 150 miles away at that point made it an easy notion to dismiss.

When I entered the bar the first thing I noticed was that the ceiling was covered in money. One of the traditions at Bill's is for hikers and bikers to sign dollar bills and fix them to the ceiling. I headed for the back to grab 3 bottles of water when I saw 2 guys at the bar with matching T-shirts that read "Pittsburgh to DC". I struck up a conversation with them immediately. Asking about the trail conditions of the Allegheny Passage, a connection from Cumberland to Pittsburgh.

After a few minutes the two, Bob and Joe, began harassing me about my lack of a beer. I told them millage goal and they quickly pointed out what I already knew. "Hancock is only 15 miles away, it's 3pm, we're at Bill's, you should have a beer." This was logic that I couldn't escape, especially from a couple of retired brethren of the bike out on a tour. Bill brought me a Sam Adams and I pulled up a stool. After the first sip 2 thoughts came into my head. I should really slow down a bit, and always listen to your elders.

After a beer I decided to take it easy and roll with Bob and Joe. They guided me to a stretch of paved rail/trial that parallels the tow path for several miles that gave us a break from the gravel. After a few days of riding alone, I was really enjoying the slow pace and the conversation. At one point someone had set out a bunch of fresh picked yellow tomatoes which I took full advantage of.

We reached Hancock at 5pm and parted ways. Bob and Joe were inn hopping and I was headed for the bunk house at the C&O Bicycle. Me and the LHT were the only guests of the bunk house that night and it suited me just fine. After a hot shower I walked around town and ended up at a diner before returning to the bunk house for some much needed sleep.

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