Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH - Day 4)

Morning at Jordan  Junction HBC
            I am generally an early riser and was always up and out of my tent before Vince climbed out of his. This morning I was also up before Joel, Levi, and Glenn and my early rising did not go unrewarded. I was quietly sitting at the picnic table in our campsite, facing the towpath with my back to the Potomac River, when two deer walked out of the woods and onto the towpath. I had seen probably half a dozen or more deer since we had left DC but they were all crossing the trail in front of us while we were cycling. This was the first time during our trip that I was able to sit still and enjoy such a sublime moment.

            My breakfast was the same as it had been the previous two mornings: Quaker Select Starts High Fiber Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal followed by a cup of Starbucks VIA Instant Vanilla Latte. After breakfast I started getting ready for another day’s ride, our shortest one yet.  Thanks to a low dew point the night before, I was able to take took down and pack up a dry tent for the first time of the trip.  All my clothes were dry as well.

            While I might have been the first one in our campsite to climb out of their tent, Glenn and Levi, travelling light and eating cold meals, were the first ones to break camp and hit the towpath. Vince, Joel and I said “goodbye” as they headed toward DC.  Joel was not far behind them, but he was heading in the opposite direction, toward Cumberland. After leapfrogging with Joel for three days and finally camping together in the same site, we would not see him again after he left that morning.

            Vince and I were finally cycling too, following far behind Joel but riding only as far as Hancock. We had about a 21 mile ride ahead of us before arriving in Hancock, where we hoped to arrange for a shuttle to Frostburg. Frostburg held the promise of hot showers, washing our bikes and clothes, and electricity to charge our cell phones, not to mention real beds.

            Once on the towpath we again encountered mud puddles and muddy spots, especially in shaded areas where direct sunlight could not reach to help dry the trail.  After cycling about twelve miles, and just past Fort Frederick near mile 113,  we turned right off the towpath and after a short distance turned left onto the Western Maryland Rail Trail, which we followed for about ten miles all the way into Hancock.

            As soon as we hit the rail trail we picked up speed and started cycling around 12-15 mph. After three days on the wet, muddy, and sometimes bumpy towpath it felt good to be on a dry, smooth, paved rail trail, but the picturesque solitude of the towpath was also replaced by the sight and sound of traffic on nearby Interstate 70. I had driven by here five days ago on my way from West Virginia’s northern panhandle to West Virginia’s eastern Panhandle and had no idea then that I was so close to the rail trail and towpath.

            The nearer we rode toward Hancock the closer we were getting to the narrowest part of Western Maryland. This part of the state, sandwiched between West Virginia, across the Potomac to the south, and Pennsylvania, across the Mason Dixon line to the north, is about only two miles wide!

            As Hancock loomed ever closer we started seeing more casual cyclists out for a short ride. We also encountered runners and walkers, some pushing baby carriages and some holding dogs on leashes. We even encountered a solitary unicyclist on the largest wheeled unicycle I have ever seen! We also started passing more homes and businesses as we rode ever closer to our first real taste of civilization since riding out of DC four days ago.

C & O Bicycle in Hancock
            Our first stop in Hancock was at C & O Bicycle where I purchased two .30 Fl. Oz. packets of Chamois Butt’r and an Axiom Frontrunner fender. I had never used Chamois Butt’r or any other chamois cream, instead relying on Anti Monkey Butt Anti Friction Powder to help combat chaffing. After four straight days of riding, however, I was starting to feel some chaffing. The small packets offered me the opportunity to try Chamois Butt’r without spending more for a larger quantity.

            A day or two earlier I had seen someone on the towpath with a plastic contraption on their downtube intended to prevent splash and water from the wheel hitting the rider. I asked the person behind the counter at C & O Bicycle if they had such a product and he pointed me to the Axiom Frontrunner. Light weight, detachable, and less than $20, I purchased it but decided to wait to attach it until after we were in Frostburg and our bikes were cleaned.

            Before leaving C & O Bicycle, Vince and I also asked about the cost of a shuttle to Frostburg and where we might grab some lunch. We noted the shuttle cost but wanted to check some other prices. The salesperson told us about and directed us to Weaver's, saying they had great burgers and that they were just a block or two away on Main Street.

            Before heading to Weaver's we called Frostburg's Trail Inn, where we had reservations for the night, to ask about the cost of their shuttle. Not only was their regular price less than the price quoted by C&O Bicycle but the voice on the other end of the line said he would discount that price an addition $20 because we were staying there that night. We took him up on his offer and asked if he would meet us at Weaver’s. He said he would and that he would be there in about ninety minutes.

Heading to lunch at Weaver's in Hancock
            Vince and I then rode to Weavers, parked and locked up our bikes in the metal bike rack conveniently located outside the restaurant, and walked in. We were immediately greeted by cool, refreshing air conditioning and soon afterward by the wait staff. We asked for a booth near an electrical outlet so we could charge our cell phones and were escorted to a booth in the corner.

            Vince ordered a burger with fries. I ordered the fish and chips, the best I have eaten in a long time. We both had ice cold fountain drinks. We took our time eating and drinking, our first non-trail food meal, our first meal in a restaurant, and our first chilled beverages in over four days.

            After lunch Vince and I headed outside to wait for our shuttle ride to Frostburg. We had not been waiting long when a van with a bike rack pulled up in front of us. As the driver, an older gentleman,  got out and walked toward us I asked him “Are you our shuttle?” He replied “Yes I am.” Our shuttle driver, it turned out, was John, the co-owner of the Trail Inn in Frostburg where we would be spending the night.

            Vince and I put our panniers and other gear in the back of the van. John closed the back hatch, raised and secured the bike rack, and then Vince and I helped lift our bikes onto the rack. John secured them with the rack’s straps and then also wrapped a bungee cord around them “just in case”.

            Vince rode shotgun and engaged John in conversation. I sat in the back behind Vince and pretty much poke only when asked a question. It was probably obvious to John, as it was to almost everyone else we met on the trail that Vince was the talkative one and I was the quiet one.

            As we rode out of Hancock, westward along Interstate 68, and into Frostburg, I took in the sights and listened in to the conversation between Vince and John, chirping in only occasionally. I also could not help but think about the 75 miles we were shuttling across, 60 of it on the C and O Canal towpath and 15 of it on the Great Allegheny Passage. I vowed to someday return, hopefully before the end of the summer, to cycle those seventy five miles. I wanted to fill in the missing piece, that is, if we ever made it to Pittsburgh, so that I could honestly claim that I had cycled the entire C and O and GAP, even if not in a single trip.

            As soon as John parked in front of the Trail In and removed our bikes from the rear rack, he opened the van’s hatch and Vince and I pulled all our gear out, setting it on a nearby picnic table next to the bike cleaning hose. After we paid John’s wife for the shuttle and our nights lodging, we started cleaning.

Vince cleaning mud off his bike at the Trail Inn
            The first thing I did was to change out of my riding shoes and socks and put on my Teva’s. Then I used the hose to rinse out my riding shoes. Yes, walking through the flooded Potomac the day before had cleaned most of the mud off them but now they reeked of day old river water. After a thorough rinse I set them aside in full sunlight to dry.

            Vince and I took turns hosing off our bikes, picking away at dried mud packed and caked on derailleurs, cables, brakes, tubes, and just about anything near the ground that could hold mud. We then adjusted settings, tightened bolts, cleaned our chains as much as possible without any degreaser, and lubed our chains and pivot points. Our rides now looked almost as good as new and were probably lighter by a pound or two with all the mud gone.

            After my bike was clean I attached the Axiom Frontrunner I had purchased in Hancock. As I took it out of the package and started attaching it I truly began appreciating its light weight and simple design, but I wished I had had it from mile zero in DC. It probably would have kept some of the mud and water from the trail splashing on me.

            Once our bikes were clean it was time for showers. With several private shower rooms available, Vince and I were able to shower at the same time rather than take turns like we did with the hose to clean our bikes. Even a cold shower would have been welcomed but the shower at the Trail Inn, my first shower in over four days, was warm and truly appreciated. I could feel the sweat, grease, and grime wash off my body and as it did I felt a little more human. Afterward, I even shaved the stubble of my beard. Not was the shower at the Trail Inn warm and private, the Trail Inn also provides wash clothes, towels, soap, a shampoo/conditioner!

            Once Vince and I were dry and wearing street clothes we combined our all our dirty clothes and washed them in the washer just around the corner from the showers. As soon as the wash and rinse cycle were complete we separated what could be dried in a dryer from what could not. Yes, two college educated men were smart enough and able to do that! What couldn’t go in the dryer we hung in the bunk room between bunk beds where the air-conditioning would help it dry?

At the Trail Inn for our fourth night
            As our laundry was drying, Vince and I meandered into the nearby attached café. We both downed an ice cold bottle of beer while waiting for our “Famous Broaster Chicken”, fries, slaw and roll. John brought us some chips and salsa while we waited. Our entree was worth the wait as it was simply delicious. We each enjoyed another ice cold beer or two and pie for desert. My entire bill, with tip, came to $20! These were not New York City prices where the beers alone would have cost $20.

            After our delicious dinner we retired to the Liberty, a large room with four bunk beds and three single beds. Even though the room could accommodate eleven people, Vince and I were the only ones in it and each of us enjoyed our own single bed without a bed on top. We took our dried clothes out of the dryer, separated them, set them on the spare single bed. The clothes that could not be dried in the dryer still hung on a line between bunkbeds, nearly but not quite dry. We then turned in for the night.

            Our tentative plan for the next day was to rise early, eat breakfast somewhere up on Frostburg's Main Street, shower again, and then pack up and head back out on the Great Allegheny passage for Rockwood, a mere 28 miles away. Somewhere near the continental divide we planned and hoped to meet up and ride with Vince’s Aunt and Uncle.

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

From DC to PGH - Day 3 (19th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 2 (18th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 1 (17th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 0 (16th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Prologue (15th Installment)
Transitioning (14th Installment)
Flats (13 Installment)
Beware Dehydration (12 Installment)
Creams & Powders for your Butt (11th Installment)
Group vs. Solo Rides (10th Installment)
Competitiveness (9th Installment)
Stats (8th Installment)
Accidents Happen (7th Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (6th Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (5th Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (4th Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (3rd Installment)
Reading and Riding (2nd Installment)
Starting Over (1st  Installment) 

No comments: