Day #2) June 14, 2011. Point of Rocks, MD to just south of Williamsport, MD – 46 miles.
Another awesome sunny day on the towpath. Got to admit that my pig-out session at the Golden Corral last night really put the hurt on me the night before. Wow, my stomach was gurgling all night long. So I’d gotten up this morning with a somewhat “tender” tummy. So my pre-ride breakfast was just a half a Subway tuna-salad sandwich! Perfect.
Judy decided to hang with my cousin Sue today while Bill and I did our thing on the towpath. Plan was to make another short day so we could get back to Sharpsburg, MD and have dinner at Sue’s friend Mary’s house where we would be staying for the night. Sue and Judy would pick us up and then we’d meet Hersh at Mary and Ned’s where I’d cook a Chinese dinner for all of us. Done.
Now the big issue today was that we were concerned about the condition of the trail. You see, about 8 yrs ago Bill had ridden this section of C&O, and it was a nightmare what with roots and rocks and big puddles of mud. So we were kind of prepared to weather a pretty gnarly day of getting the shit kicked out of us. With that in mind I’d told Sue that we may be about 4 hours on the trail to cover just 40 miles. Bill thought that was even a pretty optimistic guestimate. The trail was closed at about the 84-mile mark, so we’d made plans to ride to that closed section and then take the bypass which was on the road for about 4 miles and then get picked up.
Our pace was very nice and comfortable for the whole way…and dag gone if the trail and our surroundings were just beautiful. The Potomac River along this section varies between extremely rugged with boulders and rapids to just still water that looks great for fly fishing and kayaking. I mean there were just to gorgeous sections of river. I looked totally wild in places. And slowly but surely the river was narrowing down as we ticked off the miles. Some 60-70 miles into the trail the river had narrowed down to about 200 meters across – not the mile across we’d seen yesterday near DC.
And the best thing was that there was not a single crap section to ride on today. Seems as though over the past 8 or so yrs since Bill has ridden the trail, the NPS has crowned that it a gazillion times such that the trail bed is really sweet – like about 6 inches above the groundcover. We ended up flying down the trail. Got to the trail detour and cruised through that – right past our meeting point – and back down onto the trail. We were a good bit ahead of schedule. Now the bad news…on just day 2 I had to ride on asphalt. Yup what with the detour that put us on these little 1 ½ lane asphalt roads in MD farm country. Didn’t take long did it? And I thought, as we were directed off of the gravel towpath by these signs, about trying to ride on the berm and still stay gravel. And I did – for about 100 yrds before the berm disappeared and turned to nothing but asphalt road with NO berm. Well, that’s just one of MANY times that I’ll be forced to ride asphalt on this trip. I figure I’ll work out the kinks when we try to do the real deal sometime in the future. Now Bill and I could have tried to work through the closed trail section, but I didn’t want to screw around with the NPS without a dialogue about our situation way in advance. So asphalt it was.
The roads actually felt GREAT – with so little rolling resistance we were flying. So a part of me felt really good about the ease or riding, and the other part of me felt that I was on pavement WAY too early. Anyway, we got back on the towpath and I rung Sue, telling her we were further ahead than we had planned, and to change our pick-up point. Not a problem, so Bill and I rode another 5 miles down the trail to Falling Waters Rd, just about 6 miles shy of Williamsport, MD. From there we rode through a private Sportsman’s Club - complete with dudes firing guns at target fields. I flagged down a guy in a golf cart and asked if we were on the right road. Dude told me that we were at a private sportsman’s club and that it was gated up at the top, where Falling Waters Rd ends. He was super friendly though and told us we could wait for the ladies up at the gate at the guardhouse. And that we did, after a middle cookie out of the saddle little climb that totally woke up the legs.
Sue and Judy arrived about 30 min after we hit the gatehouse and off we went to Sharpsburg. Was greeted by Mary and Ned and made welcome as soon as we had stepped out of the van. Unloaded like a gazillion lbs of food out of the van and I got to going on the dinner prep. Thankfully for Mary, I was able to use her kitchen and cutlery to cut up the chicken for our Chinese stir fry. Jude did a salad and Bill hooked up this freaking monster propane blaster for my wok. I mean this stove was like a bloody jet engine for God’s sake – standing like 2 ft high and connecting to a 40-50 lb propane tank – it was just amazing. I loaded like 4 lbs of diced chicken into the thing and it was just bubbling and boiling in minutes. Yup, wok cooking on the road! I made some Moo Goo Gai Pan.
After dinner we bid farewell to my cuz Sue and Hersh and we commenced to make our bedding out on Mary and Ned’s screened in porch. That meant no tents and no sleeping in the van with all the gear loaded on the bench seats. Right now, at 9:30 PM, Judy and Bill are laying out on the porch with a nice breeze blowing in from the west. I’m just a few feet away from the screen door and feeling that wonderful breeze blowing in. Tomorrow we’re going to put in a 50-70-miler and then backtrack to camp at this bike shop/hostle in Hancock, MD. We’ll have just two more days on the C&O, and then it’s off to the backcountry gravel roads of Eastern WVa. That’s where things will get interesting!