For Chris’s 60th Birthday I thought it would be nice to plan a bike trip for him for a change. One where I did the research, planned the route and made all the arrangements and even wrote the blog.

I decided on the C&O towpath and GAP (Great Allegheny Passage) that runs from Washington DC to Pittsburgh, along rivers and canals. I mostly chose this ride because it would be our path while driving from New York to California.

Yesterday we drove from NYC to Cumberland Maryland.  Our destination was the Cumberland Trail Connection Bike Shop.  They outfitted us with hybrid bikes and panniers for a self supported 6 day adventure. We made the good choice of bringing our own seats and clip in pedals, which they installed, in order to make our rental bikes feel a little more familiar.

Once all the adjustments and packing was done, we parked the car in the parking lot by the shop and took the shuttle provided by the bike shop to Harper’s Ferry West Virginia.  Basically we got in a van with some retired local guy who was very nice and drove 1 1/2 hours to our hotel

We stayed at the Town Inn in Old Town, where we could walk to the confluence of the Shanandoha and Potomac Rivers and see the sights of the Armories and Arsenal that George Washington  had installed there.  It is also the sight where John Brown started an uprising against slavery that helped start the Civil War. Merriwheater Lewis bought his supplies at Harper’s Ferry before starting his expedition West and furthermore the sight of the creation of the B&O railroad  and of course Harper’s Ferry.  So much beauty and history all in this little town.

Our evening was spent wandering town, which was very small and mostly closed on a Sunday night.  We found a pub for a little football and beer and made our way to one of the only open restaurants for some local crab.  Delicious. We learned quickly that this will be a beer adventure as the West Virginia wine is mostly of the blackberry or strawberry variety. However, the locally brewed beer showed more potential.

 

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B3F7BF6E-36CA-4C21-B100-5DE2BAEB6202E831A330-329E-4E36-BD07-65A2C4C30F371F890601-AFB9-4441-B6C5-11510CC82C35DFA4A886-0114-4834-AAF7-D2FDAE58C00E0CD51A53-27A6-4A5E-88A5-80228B27683E00B6CD1F-75BD-4282-BA8F-E7EC57BF628B66F18D3C-529E-4896-B869-38A30ABA7E227C2F9F9E-17A1-4497-9630-9CBE3BEFD05214DD1667-8498-4C38-8C82-1EA37B736601A7F71BB7-8CE0-43DB-8C99-D13DDA1A54275DF3D0E2-374E-4F79-9E49-ACBC59E00A1EF5E55D40-EFBE-41CD-AA19-74CDE5D17C3756BF45B2-E11A-41C3-8609-853F6B4C935D6B3B9475-26E2-4423-965C-35B261E0CBDAToday was the first day we had to set an alarm to start our day. We had a deadline of reaching Homestead by 2pm in order to catch our shuttle back to our car in Cumberland. Our hosts made us a large, delicious breakfast to fuel us for our ride. I was a little worried when Chris said it was 53 degrees out as we dressed for the ride, but luckily we brought all the necessary layers and the crisp Fall air actually felt refreshing.

The scenery was fun today.  Being closer to a big city (Pittsburgh) than we had been the entire ride, we passed through many more small towns and neighborhoods.  We were still along a river with trains passing on the other side, and plenty of beautiful nature trail.  We liked the frequency of the small towns, especially when we hit West  Newton half way through our ride and found an amazing bakery.

We made it to our meeting place in time to change out of our bike clothes, shuttled back to Cumberland MD (a 2 hour drive) and hopped in the car to drive 4 hours (with charging stops) to Charleston West Virginia.

we arrived here at 9pm and decided to go grab something to eat.  As we walked out of our hotel and along the river we immediately came upon a giant street party, the “Charleston Blvd. Rod, Run and Doo Wop” just in time for the amazing firework show which I ordered to celebrate the end of our ride and Chris’s birthday celebration.  Or maybe we just happened to have good timing.

Some take away after 272 miles…

– make sure you have tested your seat for long distance day after day riding or you will suffer!

– At some point turning on dance party music does help get you to the end of your day.

– look for trails that are in good co diction and even better, paved.

– a self supported ride can be really fun and give you a lot of flexibility and simplicity.

– chocolate milk is the best mid day drink!

Thanks for riding along with us….  next stop Nashville…. next long ride The Euro Velo 6 from The Atlantic Ocean in France to the Black Sea in Bolgaria – 2021.  Let the training and seat searching begin.

It was almost like a day off! We started our day with a nice breakfast served at our Bed and Breakfast. The conversation around the table did seem to keep coming back to the sore behinds- yes there were other cyclists at the table.

The air was crisp today. A big drop in temperature, which stayed in the low to mid 60’s. It felt very much like a lovely Fall day for a bike ride.

We started out with a quick 10 miles, mostly downhill to Ohiopyle Park. The park and small town is a local summertime family vacation spot, with rafting, cycling, hiking and such. The nice woman at the Information Center let us leave our packs in her back room while we wandered around. We took a scenic 2 mile hike, and we were so glad to be mixing up our activities. The stairs we climbed did a good job of reminding me I have given my quads quite the workout this week. Next we found a great little lunch spot before getting back on the bikes. All the food we have eaten reminds me of my West Virginia Grandmas and their delicious homemade meals.

Next was another, not so bad, 17 miles of beautiful Fall cycling along the Youghiogheny River to Connellsville. We were here by 3pm, our earliest arrival yet. We wandered this little town that stays alive partly because of the GAP Trail. We had dinner, met some friendly local folks and turned in early to read, relax and watch a little baseball at the Connellsville B&B.

Tomorrow will be our last day of cycling, then we will be trading in our bikes for the car, to continue our road trip home.

Have I mentioned that we haven’t hit a town yet that did not have a train running through it? We are most definitely in train country!

What a Difference a Day makes! (I might have sang that a few times on the route today)…

Reasons why today was so much better than the last two…

  • Today we left the C&O Towpath behind and started the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage). Big improvement! The trail was crushed limestone instead of dirt. Much smoother and easier to ride on, even though our first 25 miles were uphill.
  • Our last 38 miles were either flat or a slight decline- and believe me I feel every .1% of grade.
  • Fall colors were abundant- as were a great variety of views along the way.
  • We rode through at least 4 very cool, as in temperature, tunnels. A great relief from the 90 degree heat and humidity. Luckily we also had shade.
  • We passed more little towns and got to enjoy a great B2 (breakfast 2) coffee shop in Frostburg, MD and a homemade diner lunch with the locals in Meyersdale PA.
  • I felt like a kid riding through piles of leaves all day.
  • We had a beautiful evening sitting out at the Lucky Dog Cafe for dinner and of course beer in Confluence.
  • The mile markers are ever present, and no matter how much you try to focus on the scenery you notice every single marker, and practice your math all day long!

Don’t get me wrong, the muscles are a bit fatigued and the butt is still suffering. It was a bit of a grind, but a much better one!

OK- this is sort of hard. EVEN Chris agrees. Today’s trail was mostly dirt road with ruts and roots. You spend a long time going 60 miles under those conditions and with all the weight we are carrying. I wouldn’t think it was near as bad if my butt wasn’t hating my bike seat. I brought my own bike seat, but it is from my mountain bike that I usually only ride for 2 hours max! Lesson # 412; make sure you are very comfortable long distance between n your bike seat. Critical!

Things I observed today…

  • As a Californian I don’t know what to do with 91 degrees AND humidity!
  • Wildlife can really cheer you up! Highlights today were a herd of deer playing together in the river and all the turtles jumping into the water as we approached.
  • Changes in scenery are good on long rides. While most of the scenery was the same all day, we loved it when we saw a farmhouse or crops or a train go by.
  • I was extremely grateful that Chris brought a bike light when we had a very long dark tunnel to go through.
  • We ran into quite a few riders today. It is fun to compare notes- mostly where to find food, as today was pretty remote. Everyone is very friendly.
  • The Crabby Pig in Cumberland had all you can eat crab tonight- a great surprise at the end of our ride!

Go A’s!

Things I have learned…(um…am learning)…

  • Maybe I could have trained more…never mind what I said about gravel and pavement! Riding on crushed gravel and carrying your gear on a hybrid bike isn’t quite the same as road riding. Felt like I rode a century today and have further to go tomorrow!
  • Only when riding a bike do you notice a 1% grade.
  • The B&O railroad is ever present in this area and Ed I am still a “foamer”. Also, only Chris hears them at night.
    Bed and Breakfast is an awesome way to go, but especially on a trip like this! Delicious gourmet breakfast- hence a late start.
  • Simplifying feels freeing! I am carrying 2 bike outfits, 2 outfits with two extra T-shirt’s, tennies and flip flops. Basically a comb, toothbrush, sunscreen and of course chamois cream. It actually feels so easy and brainless going through such simple daily routine. I say this on day two. By tomorrow I am most likely going to be sick to death of these clothes.
    The dude at the bike shop was pulling my chain about tree crocodiles. However a big black snake on the trail was very real!
    There is tons of great American history in this area. And all the plaques are a great excuse to step of the bike and have a rest, I mean read.
    The crab is delicious!
    Gnats in your chapstick is much better than mosquito bites, so I guess I am thankful!
    Who knew an outhouse could be so beautiful when seen at just the right moment!
    There are a lot of people who make these great trails and adventures possible and we are definitely appreciating them. There is also very little garbage to be found! Furthermore most of the people we encounter on the trail look like they just stepped out of a Cialis commercial according to Chris.

What I am grateful for…

  • That we planned to only ride 12 miles our first day. It rained all morning, but since we were riding such a short distance we could hang out in town and wait for it to pass so we didn’t start riding until 2pm.
  • That there was an open bike shop I. Shepherdstown so Chris could get his cleat fixed, since it lost a bolt and wouldn’t unclip from his pedal.
  • That the crushed gravel path felt like pavement to me.
  • That it was warmer and less windy than it seemed when we started.
  • That the views were beautiful and the ground covered with rust colored leaves
  • That the route was flat. Hybrid bikes carrying all your gear are a lot heavier than my light weight road bike at home.
  • That the only mechanical was that I lost my chain once, while learning the shifting isn’t quite as seamless as my road bike either
  • That the C&O towpath was empty. We had it all to ourselves!
  • That out Bed and Breakfast in Sheperdstown is comfortable, cute and has homemade chocolate chip cookies.
  • That we found a really cute beer garden.
  • That our pasta dinner was delicious and they had a wine list from Europe not West Virginia.