Wow! 4 days down, 4 to go...I can't believe we're already halfway through the ride! Today we completed the last 60 miles of the C&O Canal Towpath and arrived in Cumberland, MD - 184 miles from our starting point!
I got an early start this morning, weary of the a long day ahead, but revitalized by the sight of sunshine. The Super 8 had a limited breakfast of only waffles and toast, and as I waited to board the shuttle to the trail I did some yoga stretching out on the sidewalk. I think I scared a couple from Texas because I was mid-pigeon pose - face on the ground when they walked out the front door.
We made a stop at Sheetz for lunch to go since there was no opportunity for lunch along the trail today. I took the opportunity and replenished my stock of snacks I keep in my panniers.
|Western Maryland Rail Trail|
The trail was very scenic, so I had a lot to enjoy other than the boost in speed and smoothness. Turtles, deer, and -- something I have enjoyed this entire trip -- saying hello to everyone I pass. When there was no one else around, I sang along to my iPod, serenading the animals to see if they'd sing back. Then I began to pass the dramatic rock walls that would repeat themselves throughout the day.
|Dramatic rock walls along the Western Maryland Rail Trail|
Today was different than other days on the trail because our group seemed to be leap frogging along, and we kept running into each other. In our group of about 15 riders, there were about 10 flat tires today and some people experiencing more than one. Thankfully, my full tires avoided a flat!
It was at one of these tire change stops where we ran into a large group of our riders at Little Orleans. They reminded us to make the quick ride up the hill to Bill's Place - a quirky tradition along the trail because of the legacy of former owner Bill. Here, trail riders stopped for a drink, lunch, or supplies and swapped stories like cowboys in a saloon. Dollar bills that were signed or designed by cyclists passing through lined almost the entire ceiling.
|A part of the dollar bill covered ceiling at Bill's Place|
|Outside of Bill's Place|
After Bill's Place we had rode on toward the Paw Paw Tunnel, and arrived around 1pm. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to wait for lunch on the other side, but when we neared the tunnel I forgot all about being hungry (but only for a moment). The trail toward the tunnel became narrow, running between a high rock wall and the canal with another wall on the other side. Then a trail boardwalk led the way to the tunnel entrance, building excitement for what was to come.
|Boardwalk leading to the Paw Paw Tunnel|
|Outside the entrance to Paw Paw Tunnel|
On the other side of the tunnel, we rode our bikes a short distance and met up with some of our group members and support wagon for a Paw Paw Pie Picnic in the Park. I eagerly ate my entire footlong sub from Sheetz and the rest of my fried pickle chips I had been unable to resist at 9:30am.
After lunch, we rode on, less than 30 miles to Cumberland. On this stretch we saw our last locks, aqueducts, self serve camping, and water pumps. The environment surrounding the trail became less wild and more open with large fields or houses to our left and the canal on our right. We saw 2 large black snakes crossing the trail near Cumberland and were barely able to swerve to avoid them.
As we approached Cumberland, we passed more pedestrians on the trail - similar to what I am used to seeing on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in Pittsburgh. Slowly, signs of life started to appear - sports fields, steeples, and then the green bridge that would bring us to the end of the C&O Canal Towpath, to our hotel, and to the beginning of the Great Allegheny Passage.
I stopped at the Cumberland Trail Connection bike shop right near the end of the C&O for a victory cup of their home brewed beer, made right in the shop. It was a friendly place with dogs lounging on the floor and people happy to help and talk about the trail.
|Enjoying the last sips of my victory wheat ale|
|Bike wash station at Fairfield Inn, Cumberland|
|Our group at Ristorante Ottaviani, Cumberland|
When we got back, my Paw Paw magic continued, and the Queens City Creamery ice cream I had missed on during our Walmart excursion was waiting for me! Dave and I had been talking about the ice cream all day and he had brought me back a cup of their Flavor of the Day - White Russian, perfectly preserved in great grandeur in the hotel ice bucket. Delicious!
When I returned to the room just after 11pm, a 3rd strike of magic hit when I called down to the front desk and asked if I might be able to use the pool for just 10 minutes to soak my sore legs. They said not a problem! Hopefully, I was able to chill and massage off a bit of that bicycle swagger I had going on. I'll definitely need my legs for tomorrow's incline!