Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH - Day 0)

            The Saturday morning before I was to meet Vince at Milepost -0- on the C and O Canal was cool, cloudy, and damp, even for late May in West Virginia’s northern panhandle. As I put four fully loaded panniers, tent with polls, sleeping pad, and tarp with polls in the back of my friend Suzann’s car and strapped my bike onto the car’s rear bike rack, I wondered what the weather was like in DC. I had checked the National Weather Service forecast for our nation’s capital earlier in the morning and it called for less than a 50% chance of rain, but one never knows for sure.

            Suzann climbed into the passenger’s seat, I slid behind the steering wheel into the driver’s seat, and we were soon bound for West Virginia’s other panhandle, the eastern one. By a quirk of geography influenced by both physical geology and political history, most of our four hour drive from the northern panhandle near Pittsburgh to the eastern panhandle near DC would take us through Pennsylvania and Maryland rather than West Virginia. It would also take us across the Mason Dixon Line from north to south, and across the Eastern Continental Divide from west to east. Within the week ahead I would be reversing those transitions on my bike, riding from DC, past West Virginia’s eastern panhandle, across the Mason Dixon Line south to north, across the eastern continental divide from east to west, to Pittsburgh and near West Virginia’s northern panhandle.

            Although we did not drive through any rain as we traveled to Shepherdstown we did pass through areas where it had recently rained and I occasionally had to use the windshield wipers to clear the glass of water thrown up by other cars. The sky was overcast the whole way and we could see rain clouds and fog off to the east. The temperature barely went above sixty and even dropped into the high fifty’s as we passed through the higher mountains of West Virginia and Maryland. I hoped the weather would clear by Sunday morning.

            As we neared Hancock, MD we began seeing signs for access points, parking lots, and historical sites along the C and O Canal and I started wondering what the weather would be like and how I would be feeling by the time Vince and I reached these points, if we reached them at all. I had once lived in this area for ten years but I was not cycling back then and had never visited the C and O Canal, yet I was familiar with some of the names I saw, names like Williamsport, Cushwa Basin, Shepherdstown, and Harpers Ferry. I felt like I was back in somewhat familiar territory.

            Following my unmet host Bob’s emailed directions I pulled up in the driveway behind his home in Shepherdstown. As I approached the back porch to knock on the door I noticed a box of old climbing pitons and some other outdoor gear sitting on the floor as I remembered  his Pastor telling  me that Bob had been a climber in in his younger days. Bob answered the door, welcomed me, and directed me to put my gear inside the cab of his pickup and my bike in the truck’s bed.

            By the time I arrived back at the car Suzann had already transitioned to the driver’s seat and was ready to head back to from whence we came. It took at least three trips to move the panniers, other gear, and bike from the car to the truck and as I did I felt a few sprinkles of rain fall.  After I locked the bike to an eye bolt protruding from the bed of the truck I climbed down, walked back to the car to say thank you and goodbye to Suzann, and walked back to Bob’s home as Suzann drove off.

            I took one pannier, the one with my riding kit for the next morning, some extra clothes, and a bag of toiletries, with me into Bob’s home. He showed me to my room for the night, an upper bedroom with a single bed and overlooking the back yard and his pickup truck with my bike locked in its bed. After getting situated I went back downstairs and engaged Bob in conversation as I wanted to better know my host for the night and chauffer for the next morning.

The B&W Photo of Mt. Washington on Bob's wall
            I learned that Bob used to work for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Pinkham Notch, NH and had recently retired from working for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in nearby Harpers Ferry, WV.  His living room was decorated with mementos from his pre-retirement days. A framed large black and white photo of Mt. Washington featuring Tuckerman’s Ravine hung near a similar sized framed black and white photo of Colorado’s Long’s Peak. Various outdoor gear such as a waterproof and windproof shells, pack, stove, sleeping pad, and such were strewn about the house.

            Bob Talked about climbing and mountaineering adventures while he sipped red wine. He told me about a rescue he was involved in years ago near the base of Long’s Peak. He reminisced about meeting some early climbing and mountaineering legends, including Paul Petzoldt, the founder of the National Outdoor Leadership School, of which I was an alum.  We compared notes on Pinkham Notch and Mt. Washington, especially Tuckerman’s Ravine and Lion’s Head in winter, as I had had done some winter mountaineering there decades ago.  He talked about his work with the ATC and how people in the US Park Service refer to the AT and a few other parks as LSTs or “long skinny things”. He explained how the AT, like the C and O Canal, because of their unique shape, had more miles of boundaries to mark and protect than most parks, even large parks like Yellowstone.

            When it came time for dinner I put on a windproof rain shell as we left the house because the temperature was barely sixty degrees and it looked like it could rain any minute. As we walked the few blocks to the main street of Shepherdstown where most of the local restaurants are located the pavement and sidewalks were wet and we occasionally dodged puddles as the two of us continued to converse about our mutual interests and experiences such as climbing, mountaineering, cycling, kayaking, the AT, the Presbyterian Church, and divorce. If I didn't know better I would have thought I was in a quaint New England village in late spring or early fall.

            Without a specific dinner destination in mind we glanced through windows of restaurants and perused menus posted outside before settling on grabbing some dinner at Maria’s Taqueria.
Bob had heard that Maria’s was a nice place but had not eaten there before. We walked inside, ordered, and sat down. After our food arrived I enjoyed my first ever huevos rancheros accompanied by a Miner’s Daughter Oatmeal Stout from  the Mountain State Brewing Co. in Thomas, WV.         Bob had a low carb entrée and more red wine. The food, the atmosphere, and the company were superb.

Your's truly, Jessica, and my host Bob at Maria's Taaqueria
           By a twist of fate I learned from Bob that one of the wait staff was the daughter of another Presbyterian colleague who used to live in Shepherdstown and is now one of my Facebook friends, even though we have never met. Bob introduced me to  Jessica and I took a selfie of the three of us to send to Jessica’s mom with an “hello” from the three of us.

            After dinner we walked through a chilly, damp, dark Shepherdstown back to Bob’s home. After a few pleasantries I said good night, went up to my room, climbed into bed, and wondered what the next day and week would hold, knowing that in less than twelve hours I was to meet up with Vince to begin our ride from DC to Pittsburgh.

           The next installment will be about being chauffeured from Shepherdstown, WV to the C and O Canal in Georgetown and the first day riding from DC to PGH.

Here are links to previous installments in the "Spinning Wheels" series:

From DC to PGH - Prologue (Fifteenth Installment)

Transitioning (Fourteenth Installment)
Flats (Thirteenth Installment)
Beware Dehydration (Twelfth Installment)
Creams & Powders for your Butt (Eleventh Installment)

Group vs. Solo Rides (Tenth Installment)
Competitiveness (Ninth Installment)
Stats (Eighth Installment)
Accidents Happen (Seventh Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (Sixth Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (Fifth Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (Fourth Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (Third Installment) 
Reading and Riding (Second Installment)
Starting Over (First Installment) 

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