An Introduction

I am not a cyclist, but I love travel, new experiences, and adventure...

I'm Sarah, the Program Manager for Friends of the Riverfront, a nonprofit in Pittsburgh that has been building trails and restoring the region's riverfronts for over 20 years.

The 25-mile Three Rivers Heritage Trail has helped transform Pittsburgh from an industrial city to a green one. We work to build, maintain, expand, and promote this riverfront trail system for cyclists, walkers, runners, commuters, and rollerbladers. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail is also a Pittsburgh hub, connecting to larger trail systems.

This year, we celebrate the completion of the last link in the Great Allegheny Passage - the final mile to form a complete trail connection between Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh.

In anticipation of the official grand opening Point Made! celebration on June 15, I'm joining the grand opening ride to pedal 335-miles from D.C. to Pittsburgh on the C&O Canal Towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage.

Count down the days -- and miles by taking a virtual tour with me from the Capital to the Burgh! I hope you'll enjoy following me on this amazing ride!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mud, Muddier, Mudpies

Day 3: Shepherdstown, WV to Hancock, MD on the C&O Canal Towpath

Today it rained.

A "formal" breakfast at The Bavarian Inn was a pleasant surprise after waking up to see that rain had arrived over the Potomac, and the upscale restaurant was quite the sight with everyone in their biking gear. Our vouchers were golden tickets for anything on the menu, and so we all ate like kings. Eggs, sausage, bacon, biscuits, creamed beef...all turned in to instant fuel.

Not everyone in our group was riding today, but I was determined to tackle our longest ride yet.
I headed back to the trail on my own, to get a bit of a head start on the 52-mile day. I wasn't exactly sure how to dress for a day in the rain and I decided to go minimal -- no rain gear. The trail was already soggy and riddled with puddles and it was harder to keep pace without a riding buddy. That didn't last long. Soon Dave caught up with me, and later Chris joined us on his sweep and stayed with us as the last in the group.

Dam 4 on the Potomac River
The rain was constant and I was quickly soaked and muddy. The ride was still enjoyable, but not as quick as yesterday had seemed. There was a dam that was pretty even in the rain, and the paved sections of trail at Big Slackwater were a welcome surprise, and very beautiful. We called it a "Mini Great Wall."
The paved section at Big Slackwater
We rode about half our miles before lunch, stopping at one point to help some other riders with a flat tire. There was much less traffic on the trail today, and for the first couple hours we only passed one person.

I was somewhere beyond soaked, but somehow it was nice to just allow the rain to fall and not to have to worry about trying to stay clean and dry.

As we arrived in Williamsport, MD for lunch, the rain had let up, but a tree branch fell by the trail just after we passed it. We heard a couple of these throughout the day, and even moved a large fallen branch that had blocked the trail near the end.

We rode up to The Desert Rose Cafe, and I was a bit worried about walking inside, but the people there were so welcoming and accommodating of trail users! This was truly a wonderful business along the trail, they told us how business from the trail had allowed them to expand, and we also got to talk with several other riders from Pittsburgh who were traveling the opposite direction.

Outside the Desert Rose Cafe
Lunch was delicious, and such a good value. A pick two deal with half a turkey bacon avocado ranch wrap, a big bowl of red bean and rice soup, watermelon, and a coke for under $8! And they had NO problem with allowing us to sit down and eat just as we were, drenched and covered in mud.

Lunch at the Desert Rose Cafe -- everyone else had cleaned up a bit.
After lunch, the rain had stopped and it was about 10 miles to Fort Frederick. The trail was alive with wildlife, so much like a Disney movie that we expected singing. 6 deer, 2 bunnies, 2 turtles, a huge woodpecker, and too many squirrels to count.

When we arrived in Fort Frederick, we were already in need of power bars. One thing about mud, it really makes you hungry. We explored the Fort, which was a nice break in the day, and incredibly interesting. The men dressed in period attire inside were very helpful and knowledgeable and even checked the weather for us -- tornado warnings, but thankfully not in our path. Also, I don't know how, but neither of them even commented on how incredibly muddy I was (not gentlemanly, I suppose).

Muddy bikers invade Fort Frederick

Fort Frederick State Park, MD
After the Fort, there was a decision: stay on the C&O Canal Towpath for the final 14 miles of the day or take the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail. This was a tough decision, because at this point in the day it would have been great to have a turbo boost on paved trail, and I was dragging. But, I decided to stick to the C&O and get the full experience.

So we carried on, facing puddles head on and playing games to pass the time. We also saw a few things we would have missed if we would have gone on the other trail - a turtle and the remains of an old lock house.

The turtle prince?

Victory at Hancock!
The sky was looking ominous as we arrived at our final stop for the night in Hancock, MD - Mile 124. It took a bit of maneuvering through town to get to the Super 8 Motel, and even a brief stint on their "parkway," but we made it!

Before checking in, I had to take the hose they were using to clean the bikes and spray myself on full blast just to get some of the mud off. Once I checked in, I had about 20 minutes to refresh before the shuttle would take us to Weaver's Restaurant and Bakery for dinner. Somehow I made it, rushing to the lobby with my shoes half on, and on the wrong feet.

Weaver's was a charming diner type restaurant with good food and service. A hot roast beef sandwich, baked potato and broccoli hit the spot after the long day, and on the way out I got to sample one of their famous raisin cookies.

Weaver's, Hancock, MD

Blind taste tests for very berry (pictured) and caramel apple nut pies.
Back at the hotel, our trip leaders had arranged a pie eating contest and blind taste test between Weaver's and the other local pie company -- Weaver's won at 100%.

In my room tonight, I rinsed all my muddy clothes and am drying them on the air conditioner vent, and for my pants I propped the hair dryer on the towel rack and ran it for almost an hour straight! Everything seems pretty dry for now, our longest day - 60 miles - tomorrow.


  1. Good job Sarah, great report. I have fond memories of Hancock. I stayed at the bunkhouse at the bike shop and ate dinner at Weavers. You have a cool tunnel coming up tomorrow.

  2. Sarah, that sounds like so much fun! I've been along this stretch of the trail before, and even visited the same restaurants, (the pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting at Weaver's is delicious) but I hope to one day do what you're doing.
    Good luck!

  3. Great job Sarah! Enjoying every word and picture.

  4. I'm planning the same trip with my neighbor, only going the opposite way. Looking forward to reading your progress

  5. Excellent narrative. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks for sharing! You passed through my part of the canal in Williamsport, it makes me feel happy when others have such nice things to say about our towns.

    Reading about your adventure has been very enjoyable. My family and I have often ridden from Cumberland to DC, but never DC to Pittsburgh. One day soon we will make that trip.

    I'll look forward to your upcoming posts and wish you the continued best along your route, including some of my favorite places you will soon reach. I am interested to hear of your time across the Eastern Divide. Have a great ride.

    Happy Trails!

  7. Thank you everyone for the wonderful comments! I'm glad you're enjoying my posts and following me in this journey! It's so nice to have all of you along for the ride.

  8. I am planning a trip to ride the GAP in September. Your blog has made me more and more excited every day!! I can't wait to read about the rest of your trip.

  9. I plan on making the same Journey next year and I'm really enjoying your Blog. Thank you

  10. Sarah, an excellent narrative! I can't imagine riding on the muddy C&O. I have ended up busting my wrists and forearms each time I have raced through the C&O. Did you experience any discomfort? Here is a shout out for the bike shop at Hancock. Really friendly folks!

    1. Hi Sanjeev,

      Thanks for all your comments about the trip! I did not really have any arm discomfort throughout the trip. I credit this to a tip given to me by my friend at Golden Triangle Bike Rental - when the surface gets bumpy, the natural reaction is to tighten your grip, instead you should keep your grip loose on the handlebars.

      I think that everyone I shared this advice with found it helpful.