In more ways than one.A second submission to the weekly photo challenge.
This phrase is a call used as a common courtesy on the trails in these parts, usually uttered when a bicyclist is coming up on either a walker or another cyclist from behind. It serves as a warning to the slower person about your approach, and also a request for the person to move towards the right side of the trail if he or she is blocking the trail. You hear the phrase quite frequently on crowded trails, and the responses to this call can vary quite a bit. Sometimes folks do not hear you unless you yell because they have their earphones on and are listening to something or the other on their mobile devices. Sometimes folks do something unexpected like moving into your path. But the call works often enough that its usage is a common practice. I do not know what the etiquette of overtaking on a trail is in other places. Perhaps in the UK, they say “On your right!”
It happened when I was barrelling downhill on the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT), heading from Bethesda to Fletcher’s Cove on the C&O Canal. Traffic on the trail was unusually light that morning. It was a cool morning, actually unusually cool for this time of year, and I was wearing extra gear to keep out the chill. I felt an occasional drop of water from the overcast skies. The forecasters had predicted that it would all clear up, but perhaps even this slight threat of inclement weather had been sufficient to deter other bikers from the trail. (Or maybe it was because people have left town on vacations because of the start of summer.)
My goal for the ride was to tackle two trails that had slopes that were challenging. I needed the training to be better prepared for the Rockies. The Capital Crescent Trail and the Custis trail, both trails that I had found difficult in the past in this context, were within reachable distance of each other.
As I was speeding down the nearly empty CCT, I spied this kid in front of me who was walking down the middle of the trail in the same direction that I was riding. I tried to warn him “On your left!”, but I got no response. He had his earphones on! I had to slow down. I kept repeating myself with increasing urgency as I got closer to him and continued to slow down. He heard me at the last minute and jumped to the side. He turned to me with a sheepish grin on his face. “Sorry, my bad.” But I was not upset at all. In fact, I had to smile in spite of the fact that he had slowed me down significantly. It was partly due to the look on his face, and the spirit in which he apologized. There was no sign of annoyance in his demeanor at being startled, and he also openly accepted his responsibility. Also, I was not really in a hurry (in spite of my speed), and I was happily distracted by the thought of a kid taking a walk on the trail in the middle of the morning, enjoying the outdoors. Hopefully he had not bunked school, but in any case, he seemed to be involved a healthy outdoor diversion that was better than idling in front of an electronic display of some sort at home. I was not upset.Later on during the ride, while on a section of the W&OD trail in Virginia, I sighted a mother (I think!) and her little girl on the trail in front of me. The two of them moved to the side of the trail when the mother noticed my approach. The mother sat herself next to the kid, pointed my way, and the two of them waited for me to come by. As I got closer she waved to me, and the kid gave me a big smile that would have melted any reasonable person’s heart. I waved back with a smile on my face. I got a big lift that lasted for a significant portion of the rest of the ride.It is sometimes the small things that you remember from these type of outings, and I hope many such opportunities for smaller memories continue to present themselves during the next few weeks of training.I managed to tackle the hills on both the Capital Crescent and Custis trails without having to get off the bike and push it uphill. I am also learning how to better relax while doing rides like this that require some endurance. I took breaks from riding whenever I felt like it without feeling a need to push myself and keep going. I eased up on imaginary challenges that I tend to set for myself while riding. In spite of this outlook, I did manage to keep a good pace. In the end I covered about 46 miles, and I was in the groove towards the end, hitting four and a half minute miles on the rough trail. Perhaps I am in decent shape for the final ride already.
It used to be a small carpet store, and I remembered it having a certain mideast flavor. It sat at the corner of a neighborhood strip mall, well set back from a main road, behind the Wendy’s and the McDonalds, so much so that you could barely make out the names on the store fronts when you drove by on Darnestown Road. I remember having gone to the carpet store once to ask if they would like to put an advertisement in the program book for the annual show of the chorus. The proprietor said that he would look into it but he never got back to me. That was then.
But then we noticed that something had changed. It was when we were driving to the park for one our Sunday morning walks along the towpath. There was now a new sign over the storefront that simply said “Bike Shop”. A bike shop in our neighborhood was something new, and it was a surprising, if not puzzling, thing to me. This was a curiosity. Running a local bike store had to be a tough gig, especially when you were competing with big nationwide companies and their large and well stocked stores. Local bike stores have come and gone in other neighborhoods. Why had folks opened a small bike shop in this location? I resolved to pay these guys a visit some time.
The opportunity arose after my first training ride of the year last week. While I had been wanting to go the bike store for a while, it was only after that ride that I found the focus to remember in a timely manner my intent to visit the store. So I stopped by after the ride.
I stepped into a small space that was filled with used bikes of all kinds, for all ages, and for all the different kinds of biking experiences that were possible. There was also some other biking gear and equipment sitting around on stands and on shelves on the walls. The place had a crowded feel to it. Behind a counter was a young man working on a bike. Music was playing on a computer in the background.
I started the conversation by noting that I had stopped by because of curiosity, and asked the guy how long the shop had been open. “Ten months,” he said. He spoke with a very distinct but light accent. He seemed very friendly and open. I told him about the bike ride I had done last year. That seemed to break the ice. He turned down the music and started chatting. And gradually the story emerged.
The store was owned and operated by his father and him. Their primary business was not selling new equipment, but in taking care of and maintaining bicycles for people. He loved touring on his bicycle. He said he was the kind of person who would pack his bike with all the equipment that he would need for a ride, including what was needed for outdoor stays and cooking, and just go. He said that if I were interested in a bike, he could put one together from parts obtained from used bikes that he could get from his contacts, and that he could fit the bike with exactly the right kind of equipment I would need for the type of ride I was interested in doing. And he could do this for a reasonable price. He was very conversational, but I also noticed a certain ease and sense of confidence that he had with what he was doing.
I got the sense that he was enjoying being in business with his dad. He gave me a business card as I was preparing to leave. The card said “Andes Bike Shop”, and the name on the card was Oscar Ramirez. I asked him if that was his name, and he noted that both he and his dad had the same name. When I asked him why the name of the shop did not appear on the sign up front, he said that this was something his dad had decided. And even in that comment I could sense the connection he had with his dad. It was a connection of love and respect. There seemed to be a sense of togetherness and trust in their activity of running the store.
I was curious about the Ramirezes and the Andes Bike Shop, and about what it was that had brought them and their store to our little corner of Gaithersburg. I had asked the young Oscar where they resided, and he had mentioned that they lived nearby. I still wondered what triggered their decision to set up the store in its current location. I did manage to find this video about them.
This happens to be an immigrant story, and I find stories like this somewhat inspiring. I will perhaps go out of my way to give them some business even if there are other less expensive options. We need more of these kinds of small family businesses to survive and thrive. You have to believe that it is not always about the money.
The weather has warmed up enough for me to start training for my July bike ride from Jasper to Banff in the Canadian Rockies. I am back in the saddle after a break of many months from biking activities, indeed a break from the time of my last long ride! Considering the tremendous amount training that I did for the Pittsburgh to the DC area ride last year, I was wondering how the body would react during my first ride this year.
I started off early in the morning with the intention of not going too far. It was still quite chilly when got to the trail, and I had to bundle myself to defend against the cool early morning breeze. It took me a little longer than usual to get prepped for the ride and for me to try to get back into the routine that I was so used to following last year. I remembered that I needed to gather an adequate supply of food and water before I left home to keep me fueled through the ride. I needed to fit the basket on to the bike to carry the supplies. I needed to make sure that the bike was OK after a long period of disuse.
The ride went off OK. The miles passed by quickly as the bike (and especially the basket on the handlebar) rattled along on the uneven surface of the towpath. It was quite the different experience from running! It felt easy at first. But it did not take too much time to be reminded of the level of effort on the muscles to keep pedaling for a long time. The muscles in the thighs were out of shape. I was also beginning to feel it in the butt. I have a way to go before I will be ready, but the good thing is that there is enough time to get the body back into shape. We will be riding on a paved surface this time, and the distances we will be riding will for the most part be shorter than what we were covering last year. So perhaps it will not be as tough.
It is not that one is not already in decent physical shape, but the difference in the kind of effort that is required for running and for biking feels quite significant. I was reminded of this when I made my first run last year after an extended break when I was only riding the bike, an experience that caused me to take extra precautions in my preparations this year. But all is good. It is time to get back in the saddle once again. Lets ride!
This looks like a very broad category to me. I have so many pictures that cover so many different aspects of H2O! I remember the early morning scenes with the mist and fog over the river, reflections of the fall colors over the waters of a lake, the beauty of snow and ice of winter, the sea at sunrise or sunrise from a beach, the storms with the heavy rains and even flooding, and even the pollution of the H2O caused by humanity. And that is not a complete list….
But this time I am going back to my recently completed bike ride from Pittsburgh, PA, to Whites Ferry in Maryland to address the theme. It seems to be a good fit, because the ride, for the most part, took place beside rivers. ( Read on and you might also get a short lesson in geography!) The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail-trail that we followed from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD, essentially followed some of the tributaries of the Ohio River (which itself is a tributary of the great Mississippi that empties itself in the Gulf of Mexico). From Cumberland onward, we rode the C&O Canal towpath which runs along the Potomac river. This river runs east, the opposite direction to the rivers we rode beside up to that point, and it empties into the Chesapeake Bay and the mighty Atlantic Ocean. The Potomac and the Ohio and its tributaries flow into two distinct watershed areas on the two different sides of the Eastern Continental Divide and the Appalachian mountains that we rode over.
The Ohio river forms in Pittsburgh at the confluence of Monongahela and the Allegheny rivers and flows in a northwesterly direction out of the city. We began our trip by riding upstream along the Monongahela river (in a southeasterly direction). We crossed the river over a former railroad bridge at one point.
We got to McKeesport, PA, where the Youghiogheny River joins the Monongahela. From then onward it was further upstream and continuing southeasterly along the Yough. The skies were clear on the first day. We crossed under the Banning Railroad bridge. (I found a video of this bridge in use in 2011. I don’t know if it is still in use.)
The river was extremely muddy on the morning of the second day of the ride due to overnight rain. You can see the mud from the abandoned railroad bridge below.
This is view of the town of Confluence from a bridge over the Casselman.
The skies had cleared by the time we got to Rockwood, PA. The Casselman river looked more like a gentle stream at this point.
We crossed the Eastern Continental Divide on the GAP and descended into Cumberland, MD. The rest of the ride up to the final destination of Whites Ferry followed the C&O canal along the Potomac river. This was what the canal looked like in the area near Lock 75.
This is a section near Hancock.
The Paw Paw tunnel burrowed under a mountain to allow the canal a more direct route that avoided the bends in a meandering section of the river.
We saw many aqueducts over the canal along the way. The remains of the Licking Creek Aqueduct are shown below.
The river itself was quite peaceful for the most part.
We also saw a couple of dams that were used to supply water from the river to the canal.
And there there were some other H2O related experiences during the trip that I remember. This picture was taken on a pedestrian bridge over the Casselman river in Confluence early in the morning.
The following picture is of the house at Fallingwater built by Frank Lloyd Wright. The house is built over a waterfall. You can take steps down from your living room directly to the water that flowed under the house.
The red waterfall shown below is the acid mine drainage (AMD) from a former mine along a section of the GAP closer to Pittsburgh. We did (and continue to do) a lot of damage to our environment!
We experienced H2O everywhere during our trip (and hopefully H2O is also seen in all of the pictures I selected for this blog!). And I should not fail to mention that without large quantities of H2O to drink, we would not have survived the long hot days during our bicycle ride!
We made it! I had to take some time away from the blog for the celebrations, to take care of my friends, and to also try to catch up on my sleep, but I am back to report that WE MADE IT!
The last day of the ride was from Shepherdstown, WV, to Whites Ferry on the towpath in Maryland. This was deliberately scheduled to be short ride, and we did in fact finally arrive at our rendezvous point with the support vehicle a little early. It was a relaxed ride.
We left our hotel at at around 9:00 am.
We were back on the trail in short order and proceeded without delay towards Harpers Ferry. By this time we had established good riding patterns on the trail that all of us were comfortable with, a process that seemed to happen somewhat organically. No words needed to be spoken. There was no competition to be up in front (or for that matter behind), and it did not matter who your riding companion was. Conversations could involve all four people, three, two, or even one if you were happier riding in silence at that point, comfortably lost in your thoughts.
We stopped at the remains of Dam 3 just before we reached Harpers Ferry and hopped over exposed rocks in the river bed to chill out in the midst of the flowing water.
We parked our bikes on the towpath across the river from Harpers Ferry and crossed the bridge into town. A significant amount of time had been allocated to this destination because there was a lot to see.
We went up to Jefferson Rock on the hill behind the church. The second picture below shows the Potomac flowing south beyond the point where it meets up with the Shenandoah river.
We went back into town to get something for lunch. The second picture shows the railroad bridges across the Potomac between West Virginia and Maryland. Most of the rail traffic is freight, but there is also a train station in town used by commuter trains and the Amtrak Capital Limited running between Chicago and Washington, DC.
After a lunch that resulted in more calories being consumed than had been expended thus far on the trail, we proceeded back to the towpath and resumed the ride. In spite of some lethargy because of the lunch, we were able to resume a good pace once we got back into the rhythm. It seemed that by this time we had become comfortable with the riding experience. There were less “butt breaks”.
Our next stop was the Catoctin Aqueduct. This aqueduct actually collapsed completely in the 1970s (because of the design of the center arch) and was reconstructed in 2011.
We took a short break at Point of Rocks. We were making good time toward the final destination while riding at an easy pace.
The next somewhat big stop was the Monocacy Aqueduct, the longest aqueduct on the C&O Canal.
While taking the previous picture we heard some loud conversation taking place on the aqueduct. We looked up to see that some urgent matter being taken care of over the phone!
And then it was time to leave for our final destination. As the entered the last couple of miles of the ride the energy level actually shot up and there was some sprinting going on. And then we were done!
We had to hang out at Whites Ferry for a little while because of a foul-up with the support van. We watched the ferry in action, and then spent the time chilling out. Ice cream was consumed in celebration.
We finally got home about an hour later than expected. It was time to unwind. Later in the evening we received some unexpected awards. (Thank you, Mrs. R!)
Then it was back to more conversation and singing Hindi songs before we finally went to bed, later in the evening than we ever did during the ride itself!
This was an awesome experience. I am still getting my head around the fact that we got on bikes in Pittsburgh, PA, and finally got off the bikes in the Washington, DC, area, about 300 miles later, after six days of biking, after experiencing America in a way that one would never have been able to if we had, as is customary, gotten in a car and driven the same distance (perhaps in three or four short hours). There is so much of this land to see and experience outside of the hustle and bustle of the mainstream. Its beauty, its history, its small towns with their changing ways of life and the struggles for survival, its peoples, all of these are worth knowing and understanding better. Moreover, it is a lot of fun! As my friend Shankar would say, this is something everybody should try to do at least once in their lifetime!
At the end of our fifth day of riding there is a sense of being tired, but also the sense that something unique and remarkable in our experiences is coming to an end. I am looking forward to getting home, but at the same time I could do this forever!
Our ride from Hancock, MD, to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, was somewhat more mellow than the previous two days’ rides. It might have been due to the fact that we covered a shorter distance, and it was over flatter territory. The experience on the towpath is very different from that on the more challenging and exciting Great Allegheny Passage. We started the ride on a cloudy morning after a nice breakfast at the Riverrun Bed and Breakfast place that we had stayed at overnight. Yes, there was stretching taking place before riding, and icing of sore muscles at the end of the day.
It had rained during the night, but it was not expected to rain while we were riding. The first part of the ride was on the smoother Western Maryland Rail Trail that parallels the towpath.
We stopped at McCoys Ferry for a break.Then it was downhill at Four Locks.
We rode by a slackwater area where the canal disappears for a short while. The boats used to be pulled along the river in this section.
Dam 5, one of the dams used to route water from the river to the canal.Then it was back on the towpath.
Lunchtime was in Williamsport, MD. We crossed over the Conococheague Aqueduct to take the road into town.
We took a short break at Fallingwater.
We had to take shelter during a short rainstorm.
There was another short stop at McMahon’s mill.
We encountered this turtle who must have been surprised by all the attention.
A stop at Dam 4 on the river.
We had to climb from the towpath to the Rumsey bridge to get over to Shepherdstown where we had dinner and then proceeded to our hotel for the night.
Tomorrow is our final day of riding.