Monday, June 13, 2011

Let the dirt begin: C&O canal day 1

Day #1) June 13, 2011. Washington DC to Point of Rocks, MD – 50 miles

Well, this day came so quick that I really didn’t have time to react. BAM - and off to DC. So to DC Judy, Bill and I went. Got there in like 5.5 hrs on Sunday.

Actually we made it to Frederick MD, to stay with my cousin for a few days while we are doing the C&O canal trail. Sue and Hershel have been just awesome hosts to us, taking us out to dinner Sunday night, setting us up in our own bedrooms at their beautiful home, and then fixing breakfast for us Monday morning for the first ride. One of the biggest obstacles in this first part of the trip was the start. And honestly, I’d spent like a month trying to figure out how to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the C&O canal trail – and I just couldn’t come up with anything. So way back in February I decided to start this trip on the canal, in DC and figure out the coast thing another time. I mean hell, I’d done the coast to coast thing, and this was pretty damned close, so that was my start – in the heart of DC, just outside of Georgetown. There amidst all that concrete and humanity is a little one lane gravel trail that goes west for 200 miles.

Now the tough part was actually negotiating the DC traffic and getting to the start of that towpath. That’s where Sue and Hershel came to our rescue, coaching me down the freeways into DC and then helping me work through a maze of city roads to get to the trailhead. Took us just a bit of navigating, but after a couple of wrong turns we were right back on track and made the trailhead before 11am.

So Sue and Hersh saw us to the start and then drove my van back to their house, and then the three of us promptly got lost for about a mile of riding, on sidewalks and city streets, before we found the gravel start to the trail. Now this trail is really beautiful, and darned near every single lock and locktender’s house is still intact. Matter of fact some of the canal is so wide and deep and pristine that people are rowing and sculling on it. It’s quite an impressive stretch of trail, sunk down below the streets of downtown DC along the Potomac River.

We got going and kept a pretty good rhythm going for a bit, stopping

occasionally to snap pics. The day was phenomenal – 70-degrees

and sunny. Our intention today was to ride about 50 miles, then go

out to dinner with Sue and Hersh. So we’d do a moderate day and

then spend the rest of the day with the gang. One of our favorite

spots of the day is this section of the Potomac River where it’s just

nothing but rocky and rapids. I mean it looked like sections of wild

river I’d seen out west in CO and MT. You could smell the pine

and listen to the white water of the Potomac and swear that you

were out west in the mountains. This section of the C&O is called

Great Falls – stunning.

Got to say, this start compared to the starts I had in Canada in

09 and in Northern Main in 010, it was a piece of cake – flat, flat,

flat. Now don’t tell Judy that because she was pretty beat by about

35 miles in. Yup, despite being flat the towpath with all its gravel and

bumps and mud puddles and jostling put the hurt on her. It’s

strenuous to ride on gravel and get bumped and jostled all day long.

Her shoulders were sore, her feet were aching, and she was wanting in a big way to get the hell off of the bike. Yup, this puppy is a far sight hard to ride

than the towpath in the Cuyahoga Valley.

Once we got out of the greater DC area the trail got a bit more primitive, with the gravel being replaced by earth, where mud pits and slick spots were numerous. That’s the section the put the hurt on Jude. And when Judy gets tired, Katie bar the door! Judy gets on a mission – to finish. So she told me to put the hammer down and pull so she could draft her way to the end of the day. And I happily complied. We nailed the final 8 miles at about 18-20 mph. Both Judy and Bill did a great job today. We ended up with about 50 miles in round about 3.5 hours.

When we pulled into Point of Rocks, our end point, there was Sue and Hersh standing next to my van – Hersh with a cold Fosters Lager in his hand waving to me. What a perfect way for finish riding for the day!

Now we hear that it’s going to get a bit nastier on the trail as we work our way west. A fellow told us today that there’s a section at about 70-90 miles in that’s closed due to the flooding several weeks ago. We may have to do some bike walking for a few miles! We’re going to plan on a short 40-50 miler tomorrow so we can hang with Sue and Hersh for another day. Then we’re motoring west. So we’re looking to make it to a point west of Sharpsville, MD tomorrow. We’ll camp at a friend’s of Sue’s, and they’ll come up to join us for a campside Chinese wok cooked dinner that afternoon.

We finished the day at the Golden Corral Buffet. Bill killed about 4 plates, Judy 3, and I put away a soft 5 plates. Oh to be back on the bike riding and eating and eating and riding – such a wonderful feeling indeed.

Talk to you tomorrow……..Pete

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