Remember, Heal and Reconcile

I had just started making my way back after riding into Washington DC from Pennyfield Lock.  I was stopped in my tracks by this wreath of beautiful roses next to the Potomac river in the Georgetown Waterfront Park.P8290066.jpg The first line on the white ribbon that lay diagonally across the wreath read “Remember, Heal and Reconcile”.  The second line read “400th Year Commemoration 2019”.  I could not figure out what it was all about until today.  And I spent a lot of time this morning trying to get a better grip on this story and really get into it.  You can read an article about it here.   I found this audio clip related to this story also interesting.

Just to give you a high level background, 20 or so slaves arrived from Africa for the first time on an English ship at Jamestown in August 1619.  This notable event was a part of the beginnings of a complete moral disaster that has its impacts even today.  Unfortunately, there are people who still wish to rewrite this piece of history even today.

I also saw this.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn light of the shenanigans going on in government today, and especially at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it was somewhat ironic to see this on the plaque below the sculpture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd this was posted in the same neighborhood next to the river.P8290048.jpgYuk!

Lest somebody thinks that I am a grouch, I really did enjoy the morning and did have a good ride.  Here are some other pictures from the park.

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View of Rosslyn (in Arlington), and the Key Bridge

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Georgetown Waterfront Park

And here is a picture of Swains Lock taken in the early morn.P8290047.jpgLife goes on!

Jones Point Park, VA

It is the darnedest thing!  I have had this particular blog in the back of my mind for quite a few days.  I keep thinking about it every day,  but I cannot get myself into the proper state of mind to write it.  There are so many distractions.  I am just going to have to force myself to eject the words out of the brain in free form when I have a little bit of free time, and then read it all back later to see if it makes sense.

It had to do with my bike ride last Wednesday.  It was another one of those rides that required some extra motivation on my part to get it going.  I am finding it hard to maintain a regular schedule.  I am too good at finding excuses.  It had rained the previous day.  The trail was going to be messy.  Perhaps I should stay home.  That was my excuse this time.

But I found a way.  I decided that I would ride on the paved trails in Virginia so that I could avoid the mud and potholes of the C&O canal.  In order to do this, I would park the car on Canal Road at the Chain bridge, on the outskirts of Washington, DC, and then head south on my bike on the towpath into Georgetown. I would then cross the Potomac river into Virginia on the Key Bridge.  I was then going to ride south on the Mt. Vernon Trail.  I did not know how far I would ride on this trail, but I knew that if I rode to the end, it would end up being a somewhat tougher ride than usual.

Things went according to plan as I rode into Virginia somewhat early in the morning.  As I crossed the Key Bridge, I could see and feel the rush hour traffic headed into Washington, DC.  This was was the scene on the Roslyn side of the bridge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI got on to the Mt. Vernon trail at this point and started pedaling away beside the river, passing Roosevelt Island early in this section.  There was a very short stop for pictures at Gravelly Point Park.  There was already a steady stream of planes headed into National Airport.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe airport was busy.  Both runways were in use.

The Mt. Vernon trail passes under the Woodrow Wilson bridge just beyond the town of Alexandria.  This bridge carries Interstate 495, the Capital Beltway, over the Potomac river.  The approach ramps of the bridge pass over Jones Point Park.  The Mt. Vernon trail snakes its way between the massive piers of the bridge at this point.  There is a lot of open space under the bridge and people of all ages hang out there – fishing by the river, playing basketball, biking around, etc…  It seems to be a meeting place for groups of mothers with babies.

Most often I bike right through Jones Point Park without stopping.  But this time, an unexpected thought crossed my mind just as I was headed out of the park.  At that point of the ride I was thinking to myself that I really did not care about the distance I covered that day.  So why not take some time to get off the trail and explore some of the smaller, less well-defined, paths that I had seen in the past while riding through the park.  It was a sudden decision.  It also turned out to be a great decision!

Riding along a smaller trail, I ended up at a spot where I began to see boundary markers beside the trail, with signs on these markers for the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.  These markers were lined up in straight lines, with the black line on their tops indicating the actual boundary line between two jurisdictions.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was also a lighthouse beside the river, and a few wayside exhibits around it.

It turned out that I was at the tip of the area of land that originally defined the southern limit of Washington, DC!  These newer boundary markers were meant to mark the historical boundaries of the District of Columbia.  The history is very interesting, and you can read more about it here.  Essentially, the District of Columbia was originally conceived of as a diamond shaped area of land with sides of 10 miles each, with a total area of 100 square miles.  The land for DC was going to be obtained from both Virginia and Maryland.  In the end, the land that Virginia was going to give up in this regard was taken back. (This covered about 31 square miles.)  This was called a “retrocession”.

Another interesting fact is that when the original area for DC was being mapped out, boundary markers were set into the ground at one mile intervals along the sides.  Most of these boundary markers still exist, including the one at the southern tip, the place I was at!

Unfortunately, I did not think about the significance and existence of the original boundary markers while I was in the park.  It was only later that I read that the original southern boundary marker for Washington, DC, was actually embedded in the seawall in front of the lighthouse.  It is something that I will stop to investigate further the next time I am in the area.  It is located on the right side of this picture of the lighthouse, under a cover of plastic.  It is next to the wayside exhibit and in front of the steps, below the level of the ground.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took pictures of a couple of the wayside exhibits that provided some historical information. (You can click on the pictures to open them up in bigger size.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI continued my bike ride past Jones Point Park.   At this point, I was within reachable distance of Mt. Vernon and the end of the Mt. Vernon Trail.  The temptation of complete the trail was too much to overcome.  So, I biked to the end.  It was not the optimal decision.

The ride began to take its toll on the way back.  Basically, I was retracing my path.  The ride was beginning to feel somewhat more mechanical at this point as I endeavored to keep a steady pace.  It became more about the challenge of the ride.  I was even beginning to pick up speed as a matter of course.  My mindset for the ride had shifted. This is typically what happens to me when I bike long distances.  It is more relaxed in the beginning, and then, bit by bit, it becomes more intense.

I began to tire without even being too aware of it.  I was also running out of water.  I stopped at Fletchers Cove, about a mile short of Chain Bridge, the place where I had parked the car.  My thigh muscles cramped up immediately when I got off the bike.  I had pushed myself too hard.

I was able to buy a bottle of Gatorade at the concession stand at Fletchers Cove.  More than half the bottle went down the throat immediately.  After a few minutes, I was able to get back on the bike and continue riding to the car. I had no further issues.  Because of the long stop at Fletchers Cove, I had also managed to alter my mindset, and I was able to ride at a more relaxed pace.

In the end, I had ridden over 44 miles. I have ridden longer distances than this in the past, but under different circumstances.  I was probably also in better shape when I did longer distances!

That is my story for the day, and I am sticking to it!

Backlit Pictures After The Rain

I have not taken any formal classes in photography yet.  Most of what I have learnt comes from trying different techniques over and over again. I also read articles on the Internet whenever I have questions.  The digital medium has made it easier to experiment.  I can react quickly to whatever seems interesting to me using a relatively inexpensive resource (digital bits rather than film), and then I can delete pictures that I am unhappy with with ease.

I know from experience that some unique conditions arise in the woods the morning after it rains.  The moisture rising into the warming air, combined with the early morning sunlight cutting through the gaps in the trees at a narrow angle, creates a neat visual effect that lasts only for a short period of time.

Most conventional photography is done with the light falling directly on the object that one wishes to capture in picture form.  You cannot see the object clearly if it is backlit, when the features that you are interested in are in the shadows.

But backlighting does create other opportunities, opportunities that I have learnt to appreciate from past outings.  So I was prepared for further experiments with backlighting when I went out for a ride on Wednesday morning, the day after some heavy thunderstorms had passed through the area.  Here are some of the results.  As you can imagine, these pictures would look very different if they had been taken from a different angle with respect to the sun.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Easy On The Handlebars

It happened during the bike ride in the Canadian Rockies in 2017.  It was the third day of the ride, and we had left the area of the Columbia Icefield that morning. We were descending Parker Ridge on the Icefields Parkway on our bikes. The road was somewhat steep.  The pavement was in bad shape, and the narrow shoulder of the road that we  were riding on looked like it was falling apart. There were cracks everywhere, and the outside edge of the shoulder was very uneven.

We were coming down the side of the mountain rather fast, and then we were negotiating the curve around the mountainside at a point where there was a lookout point into the valley on the other side of the road.  Some folks in the group tried to stop at the curve. Our radio started squawking.  It was Ben, our tour organizer, telling us that this was not a good place to stop (it was busy with traffic), and that we needed to get to a safer point closer the bottom of the hill to pull off the road.

I was doing my damnedest to try to keep the tires steady going downhill.  There was a lot of bouncing around involved.  When we finally got to a place where we could stop and gather ourselves, Ben asked me how it had felt coming down.  It seemed to him that I had looked wobbly on the bike.  He advised me to not hold on to the handlebars very hard.  He said that I should actually relax my arms a little more to allow a little bit of bounce.  That would make the ride easier.

This advice made a big difference the rest of the way down the mountain. It turns out that letting the bicycle react to the roughness of the roadway and going with the flow, and making fewer and more subtle adjustments, made for a smoother, and actually more controlled, ride.  I did not need to react hard to every bump on the road.  I did not need to fear the feeling of not being completely in control all the time.

I was thinking about this incident a couple of days ago during a more recent bike ride. The thought occurred to me that I have always had this tendency since childhood to try to force things to happen in exactly a certain way, striving for the perfect approach in some situations, when, in certain circumstances, the best thing to do might have been to relax a little.

I learnt a similar lesson about control more recently when I was taking classes to learn how to sing properly.  I was learning to use the body properly to create a consistent and strong musical sound.  But, as it turned out, I ended up also trying too hard to manage the vocal system as a part of this process.  You cannot make a good sound when the muscles are tense.   I had to learn to relax.  I managed to get my head around this fact only later.   Trying very hard for perfection may not necessarily be the best approach in all situations.

While this kind of general attitude towards getting things done right might have made me a better engineer, and even a good solver of logical problems, it may not have been a good lesson to help me deal with life in general.   Just as I was made to realize with the bicycle that a 100% control of the handlebars was not the best approach, the 100% solution is probably not the best approach to life as a whole.  As I have noted before, the world is not digital!  I tried too hard in situations where it did not make sense.  I missed the big picture.  Setting rules does not absolve you from thinking, learning as you go, and adjusting as needed.  You cannot be stuck on making sure everything is done exactly as you want it. And people do matter!

I am sorry to admit that I began to learn this lesson properly only later in life.  It turns out that it is not easy to get away from the foundation that you grew up with.  I would like to believe that I am now learning to take it easy on the handlebars, to let go of some of the control, and to not force matters.   Unfortunately, the impact of my failure to learn this lesson earlier in life has been not just on myself, but also on other people. Hopefully, the impact of the damage has been limited.

We should all be taking it easy on the proverbial handlebars, or, if you prefer, the steering wheel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Closed Section of the Towpath

I saw this at the website of the National Park Service for the C&O Canal Park after I got home from my bike ride.Screenshot_2019-07-26 Current Park Conditions - Chesapeake Ohio Canal National Historical Park (U S National Park Service)I might have been the only person to ride the section after it was closed.

In fact I had to cross this barrier at Pennyfield Lock to exit the closed section after I was done with my ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarlier on, I had encountered a young girl working for the NPS who belonged to the Student Conservation Association who was taking a count of the number of fallen trees in the closed section.  She said that she had counted 20, and that she had stopped because she had come to an impassable section.  I was able to cross this section by carrying my bike off the trail and back on to it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe section of the trail in the picture below looked beaten up from water flowing over the trail.P7260040.jpgA park ranger had stopped me earlier.  He looked a little upset when he saw me.  He got up from the stump he had been sitting on.  “Did you not see the sign that the trail was closed?”, he asked.  I had been prepared for the encounter.  “I have to get back to my car which is parked at Pennyfield Lock,” I said.  He immediately relented.  He actually smiled.

I had actually encountered an NPS pickup truck with a couple of kids earlier on in the closed section of the trail.  They were backing away from the site of the destruction on the trail, all the way back to Swain’s Lock it seemed. Because of the width of the towpath, there was no place to turn the pickup truck around.  They had told me to be careful, but had made no attempt to stop me.  The kid mentioned that they were not responsible if I hurt myself.

Back at Swain’s lock, as I approached the sign for the blocked trail, I had a decision to make.  I could stay on the trail, or I could try to get to the main road and ride along the road.  Riding along the road would have added a couple of miles to the ride, and it would have also involved riding up and down decent slopes on the side roads to get to the main road.   It would have also been more dangerous because of the traffic on the road.   Besides, I was tired after having ridden more than 30 miles at that point.  It did not take too long for me to decide to stay on the trail and face the consequences of my action if I encountered somebody who objected.

At that point I was returning from a ride all the way out to Fletchers Cove.  The highlight of this ride was the stop to see the swallowtail butterflies feasting in the morning sun on the milkweed growing beside the waters of the canal.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossing the damaged section of the trail earlier in the morning on my way out had been an adventure in itself.  I could ride my bike for only short sections at a time.  I had to carry my bike over tree limbs laying across the trail, and walk under fallen branches balanced over me.  I even had to carry my bike off the trail through the woods to get past one section.  Fortunately folks had created a path off the trail in this section.  (The trail must have been blocked for at least a little while at this point in time for this to happen!)  I carried my bike past the park ranger who was sitting in his front-end loader on the trail.  He did not stop me.  Perhaps he remembered me later in the day when I encountered him again, which was why he let me get by that time.

The destruction was extensive.  Trees were fallen all over the place.  The trail had also been washed away in a few sections, as if the canal had overflowed.  I kept going.

When I started the ride earlier that morning, I had met a person who had just finished his bike ride.  He had warned me about the fallen trees, but had apparently gotten through to the other side, where the trail was completely clear.  He did not say anything to discourage me from my plan to ride towards the city.

The strange thing about what I saw on the trail was the localized nature of the damage.  I have a hunch that some kind of twister must have touched down during a storm that had taken place a few days earlier.  The funny thing is that I was not aware of the extent of the storm when it happened even though the trail is not too far from home.  I wondered how things might have looked on the trail when the storm was actually happening.  The power of nature is awesome.

And that is the end of this little tale told backwards!

Hah!

 

Riding The GAP in 2019

This bike ride came together in a hurry.  A group of us, friends from high school, had ridden the  Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and the C&O Canal together in 2016.   It was a 300 mile bike ride from Pittsburgh to the Washington, DC, area over six days.  Earlier this year, there was a documentary about this trail produced by a PBS station in Pittsburgh.  It was called  The Great Ride.  It was quite inspiring, and reminded us of the wonderful time we had had in 2016.  I said that I was prepared to do this ride with the same group once again.  Koushik immediately took me up on the the offer, and proposed that we ride this year, without waiting too long.  The others agreed almost immediately after that.

It took just a few weeks for the plans to come together.  We decided that we were going to do the ride at a more relaxed pace this time.  Instead of covering 300 miles, we would just do the 150 miles of the GAP.  We would spend a day exploring Pittsburgh, and 5 days doing the GAP itself.  This is how it came together.

Arrival in Pittsburgh for Bike Ride
Seeing Pittsburgh by Bicycle and Boat

Riding to Smithton, PA
On to Ohiopyle. PA
A “Rest” Day in Ohiopyle, and then on to Confluence, PA
In the Rain to Meyersdale, PA
Destination Cumberland, MD

This was a special ride. The more relaxed pace of this ride allowed us to enjoy each other’s company much more.  We were not rushed in any way.  And as we rode, I could feel a deeper and simpler level of connection emerge.  Another layer of my inhibitions in the company of friends slipped away.  This ride was especially good for the spirit.

Just as for the previous ride in 2016, not all details of the ride where completely figured out ahead of time.  We did know where we were staying – the towns and the establishments in those towns, but the particulars of the places we would stop at during the day, and what we were going to do at any particular place, or where we were going to get food and water during the day, were fluid.  We were flexible.  It worked out well.  We saw some great things, and ate some great food (there was the one clunker for me, but that’s all I am going to say about that!).  The boat tour of Pittsburgh turned out to be unexpectedly special.

All the establishments we stayed at along the way this time were different from those we stayed at in 2016.  We also stayed at more Bed and Breakfast establishments, and only one motel.  The owners of all of these places were great in their own ways.  They all made us comfortable, and also spent some time with us.  We got to know more about each other.  One of the owners was the mayor of the town!  All of these places had a character of their own.  The experience was not about staying the night at the most luxurious place available, but was about something deeper than that.  We were staying at places that represented the local town in some way, and we were getting to know some of these places better.  We lived in some of the really old buildings that had been renovated.  We met the locals and talked to them. We were getting a flavor of the real America.

One would think that rain would ruin a bike ride.  Not for me!  Even though the rain did change the nature of the experience on the one day that it poured, it brought out a different kind of joyousness.  I became a child once again, riding in the rain.  I could hear the sound of the rain through the trees, and on my poncho.  There was the dirt thrown up by the wet tires.  My glasses were getting wet and my shoes and socks soaked.  But, somehow, all of that did not matter that much as I was riding.  We just rode on through the rain to the next stopping point while others stopped for shelter.  We were able to dry out and warm up nicely finally, at the end of the ride.  The rain gear did help!

Something different this time was that towards the later half of the ride we encountered some people over and over again in different places along the trail.  And we met all of them again at the end of the ride.  We were all people on the same mission.  I do not remember anything like this from 2016.

The nature of the end of our ride in Cumberland was simply awesome.   It could have been anticlimactic – a slow ride to the end line in a plaza in Cumberland in the middle of a hot day.  But, no!  We had a cheering squad awaiting us.  Our families, and even classmate who was visiting from India.   The garlands and the awards were a bonus, but I would have been happy enough simply seeing their smiling faces at the finish line.  That was special, and unique to this particular bike ride.

A few days have passed since the end of the ride, and I have had time to ponder the richness of the experience of the week that we rode our bikes.  It is going to be a hard act to follow.

Destination Cumberland, MD

This particular blog in the series about the bike ride is coming out a little later than usual.  First of all, I want to assure all of you that we completed the ride without any accidents.  In light of what happened to me in 2017 on the last day of that ride, I was especially relieved and happy that I made it without causing any damage to myself.

The blog is late because I am now in the relaxed atmosphere of home,  in a more relaxed state of of mind, not having to worry about the next day’s ride.  Perhaps this blog will also be more coherent as a result.  Perhaps, unfortunately, it will also tend to go on a little longer than usual.  Let me begin to talk about the events of yesterday without further delay.

To remind readers who are following the blog, we were starting the ride this day at Meyersdale, PA, where we had spent the night at Yoders B&B.

Breakfast at this particular B&B was continental style, the first time it was happening at a B&B during this ride.  I did tuck in more food than I expected despite this fact.  Bike rides tend to make you hungry!

As was my habit during the ride, I did take some pictures outside the house before departure.  The two pictures below are repetitive, but what the heck!  The first picture is of the diner and the small old motel, still in use, in front of the B&B.  The second picture is of the B&B itself.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKoushik had bought everybody new riding jerseys with the GAP logo on them.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ride started with a somewhat steep climb through the town itself to get back to the trail.  Back on the trail, it was back to the regular uphill climb, but with a much reduced angle of attack than what we had experienced in town.

The first landmark we passed was the Bollman truss bridge.  It gets its name because of the design of the truss. This particular bridge was transported from another location in another state to the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next stop was the Keystone Viaduct bridge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed the CSX railroad tracks below us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Flaugherty Creek flowed below us next to a roadway.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were windmills on the ridge in front of us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ride took us up the side of the ridge and on to a flatter and more open area behind it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed the Flaugherty Creek a few times during this section of the ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made a pit-stop at a place called Deal to use the restroom.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail was surrounded by meadows and wildflowers of different colors.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next milestone was the Eastern Continental divide.  This was the highest point of the bike ride.  It was going to be a downhill ride the rest of the way!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKoushik photo-bombed the picture I was taking of the elevation range of the GAP.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe always gets great elevation on his jumps.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next stop was at the 3000 foot long Big Savage tunnel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI would not recommend the activity shown in the picture below to anybody!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt almost looked like there was a car approaching us through the tunnel. It was actually the light from two bicycles next to each other.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was taken at the exit of the tunnel.  It is at a slight angle to the rest of the tunnel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is what it looked like from a viewpoint just outside the tunnel.  We could see the entire valley in front of us (click on the picture!).  The Cumberland Narrows that we are heading for can barely be seen in the distance, and is better visible in the picture below this one.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was always the photo opportunity to be taken advantage of.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was at this point that Shankar realized that he had left his riding gloves behind at Deal. Two of us decided to ride back to look for it, while the others pedaled on.  They would wait for us further along the trail.

Shankar and I zipped back to Deal on our bikes to find that the gloves were not there.  As we were returning, we passed a tour group that was traveling in the same direction as we were.  Hoping that the person supporting the tour whom we had talked to at Deal (he was carrying snacks for the group in a van and met up with the group at certain points) had picked up the gloves and taken it on to Cumberland, Shankar talked to person who was actually riding with group.  She confirmed that the gloves had been picked up and taken to Cumberland!  Shankar could pick them up there!

We ended up riding 5 to 6 miles more than the others, and we also experienced the Continental Divide and the Big Savage tunnel thrice in a single day!

Koushik and Ram were waiting for us at the Mason Dixon line.  This forms the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail was taking us steadily down the side of the ridge.  We picked up a lot of steam going downhill.   We passed the side trail for the town of Frostburg next.  We decided not to take this trail because it required a stiff climb up a hill, and also because we were running late.

The railroad tracks that are used by the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad excursion train going between Cumberland and Frostburg appeared soon after.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail and the tracks would run next to each other the rest of the way into Cumberland.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom this overlook above the town of Mt. Savage, one could see the ridge that we had just ridden down.  We had some difficulty sighting the entrance to the Big Savage tunnel from this distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail crossed the railroad tracks in many places, from one side of the track to the other.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had been told about a big raspberry patch next to the trail.  We stopped there to pick and eat fruit.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fruit was quite tasty.  I was picking it off the plant and popping it into my mouth.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARam was collecting the fruit to share with the folks meeting us at Cumberland.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed through a tunnel that was shared between the trail and the rail line.  There is a little fence running in-between the two through the tunnel.  As with the Big Savage Tunnel, it felt much cooler riding inside the tunnel than outside it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, we were in the Cumberland Narrows, getting very close to our destination!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe rode slowly into town.  As we crossed the finish line, we were greeted by family and friends.  Ganga, our classmate from high school who was visiting from India, garlanded us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur spouses were there to meet us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe received awardsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand posed in front of the statue that marks the beginning of the C&O canal.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt felt great to have made it, and to have been greeted by our close friend and family at the end.  We had covered 150 miles of trail safely.

It was amazing that we also met many of the people we had encountered in previous days along the trail, starting all the way back in Confluence, at Cumberland.  The little boy, Henry, had also arrived with his dad.  I still cannot get over the fact that a 7 year old rode the 150 miles of trail.

We picked up our luggage after returning our bikes to the place we had rented them from and went to a local restaurant for lunch.  Some of us celebrated with a beer or two even though it was early in the day.

Ram returned home to Pittsburgh soon after, while the other riders came home with us to Gaithersburg.  Exhaustion hit during the drive home and folks took naps in the car. Koushik and Shankar departed town today.

All is quiet at home.  The adventure has ended.

In the Rain to Meyersdale, PA

Our host at the B&B we were staying at in Confluence, Sandy, was already there, busy at work in the kitchen, by the time I went downstairs from my room.   Ram and Koushik were chatting with her.

After having a cup of coffee, I decided to take a walk around town while breakfast was being prepared.

This is the house in which we stayed.  It was really charming, both inside and outside.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe early morning fog was rising over the hills, and behind the community center.  The population of Confluence is about 800.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were people sitting on the benches in the park in the central area in town having an early morning chat.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe breakfast Sandy had prepared was quite grand – with scrambled eggs, chopped up potatoes with fresh vegetable mixed in, tasty sausage links, fruits of different kinds, orange juice, bread, and homemade jam.  It was all fresh and substantial.  Sandy fussed over us as we enjoyed the food, and she helped keep up a steady stream of conversation. We learnt a lot about the place.  By all appearances, Sandy seemed to be a very active member of the community.

The weather forecast was not optimistic.  The chances of getting rained on during the ride were significant.  But we were prepared, and we were determined to press on.

Sandy came out of the house to talk to us, to bid us goodbye and give us last minute directions, as we got our bikes out of the garage and got ready to ride once again.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to ride a short distance on the main road before we hit the trail once again.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a steady climb right from the start.  There were places where the river ran well below the trail and the train tracks on the other side.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then it started to rain.  We had to bring out the rain gear.  I had to stow my camera away in my backpack and put on my own poncho.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the approach to the Pinkerton tunnel.  The bridge is over the Casselman river.  It was raining like crazy at this point.  I was in no position to take pictures and enjoy the view from the bridge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped at the entrance of the tunnel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe boy in the picture above was riding the trail with his dad.  He must have been less than ten years old.  He was really pounding the pavement and appeared to be enjoying the experience.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe encountered many more riders who had stopped to take shelter within the tunnel while waiting for the storm to pass, but we pressed on.  I was actually enjoying the ride in the rain.

The funny thing was that we encountered many of the same folks that were waiting in the tunnel when we finally got to our destination for the evening at dinner.   And we might encounter some of the same people on the trail on the way to Cumberland today.  There is definitely a kind of fellowship that is generated between people who bike this trail.  I do not remember this from our ride in 2016.

The picture below was taken when we made a short stop for a restroom break.  Koushik and I rode over the bridge to the other side of the river.  It was still raining heavily at that point.  It was difficult to take pictures since I had to first take my poncho off to get to my camera bag underneath it, then extract the camera from the bag in the rain, and only then, finally, take the pictures.  I had to go over the process in reverse after I was done.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe finally arrived at the town of Rockwood as the rain was beginning to subside.  There was a group of cats on the trail.  It felt like they were there to welcome us.  Apparently, they have become rather well known on the trail.  I could not take a picture.

We rode off the trail to a place we had stopped at during our previous ride in 2016 to get some sustenance and warm up a little bit.  There were many other riders of the trail who had stopped there, most likely with the same purpose.

It was a nice atmosphere inside, and a general spirit of camaraderie.   We were all there with the same spirit of purpose.  Many folks seemed to be familiar with the drill.  This was not the first time they were doing the ride.

I had been imagining a turkey sandwich and a cup of hot chocolate during the wet ride.  I got what I wanted!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen it was back on the trail.  Our rain gear was put away.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack on the trail, it was back to the steady uphill climb.

We took our time to enjoy the stops that we made.  There were many small waterfalls along the way.  The air was actually cooler as you passed these waterfalls. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were also the waterfalls that were formed just because of the rain that had fallen.

In one section of the trail with walls of earth on both sides, we came across a young deer that was trapped on the trail in front of us.  It kept running ahead of us until it found a place to climb the slope on one side of the trail.   We slowed down for it.

And then the rain started coming down in earnest once again.

It was pouring heavily by the time we got to the long Salisbury viaduct.  We could not afford to stop too long on the viaduct since there was some thunder and lightning action going on around us – and we also happened to be the tallest objects on the viaduct.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI would have loved to have stopped and taken more pictures on the viaduct, but it was not to be.

It was an uphill slog the last couple of miles into town. There was water running down the the trail as we kept our heads down and pedaled as hard as we could. A steady stream of water was picked up by the tires and a line of dirt coated our rain gear.

We kept at it until we arrived at Meyersdale, PA.  We found our way to the place for the night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first order of business was to clean up the bikes and put them away in the shed that you can see to the right of the above picture.  Then we had to clean ourselves up. There was an incredible amount of dirt all over us.. My shoes and socks had gravel all over them.  (The shoes are still wet this morning.  I will have to ride in my sandals today.)  A hot cup of coffee after a shower brought us back to normal.

This picture was taken from the front of the B&B.  There are only a few places close by to eat at, and this shows two of them.   The Donges Diner and the small motel next to it are very old, and both are still functional.  The Donges has a good reputation.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe went to the Morguen Tool Company for dinner.  There was a nice breeze blowing outside as we chatted.  We were joined by a few of our fellow riders on the trail, including the little boy and his father.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen it was back to the B&B for some more conversation.  The bottle of Scotch was demolished.  The people that we had stayed with at the B&B in Confluence stopped by to chat.  We headed for bed as late as usual.

We rode about 30 miles yesterday.  We have about the same distance to cover today, into Cumberland.  There is a good downhill stretch towards the end, after we cross the Continental Divide, that could make this a short run.

 

A “Rest” Day in Ohiopyle, and then on to Confluence, PA

My friends had woken up by the time I finished yesterday’s blog at the cafe where I had found the Internet connection.  I went back to the motel room to get ready for the day while they were having their own breakfasts.  I then joined them as the day’s activities began.

This is the little place where I had written the previous blog.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI walked around town by myself for a little bit before going back to the motel room.  The others had gone back to the motel to get ready to check out.

The towns that we are riding past are next to the primary CSX freight line that runs between this part of the east coast and the rest of the country.  There is always a steady train traffic nearby.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of the Low bridge over the Yough in the morning light.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe set out on a hike to Cucumber Falls after I returned to the motel.

The activities on the river had already started.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stepped off the path to go down to a stream to see the natural water slides.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe could not figure out how anybody could actually slide down this stream and stay alive!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were trying to follow the Meadow Run Trail to get to the falls.  We got lost after this stop by the Yough river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to work our way back to the main road to get to Cucumber Falls.  It was a good climb up a hill.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe falls were spectacular!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is Koushik exploring the falls.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARam was next.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShankar also walked behind the falls.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then hiked the Great Gorge trail to get back to town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere we are at the place where we had stopped for lunch during our ride of the GAP in 2016.  We were nicknamed “The Blues Brothers” for the day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture is from the High bridge over the Yough.  It was taken from the GAP trail at the tail end of the hike.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI thought this was a good day to relax.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped here for lunch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was taken as we were leaving for Confluence.  This is where we had stayed the night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere we are back on the trail again.  It is good to stretch before doing any exercise!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince we were only riding a short distance, we took some extended stops along the way. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to climb down to get from the trail to the river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven though it had felt quite hot when we had been walking in the sun earlier in the day, it was very comfortable riding under the trees.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese pictures are from a second stop by the river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then it was back on the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of the confluence of the Youghiogheny and Casselman rivers. It was taken from the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe went for a walk after arriving in Confluence, putting our bikes away, and cleaning up.  We were staying at the at The Confluence House Bread & Breakfast.

It turns out that Confluence is not just the confluence of the Youghiogheny and Casselman rivers. There is also the Laurel Hill creek that joins up with the two rivers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe tried to walk to the area of the confluence of the rivers but it was all on private property.

We then proceeded to the Lucky Dog Cafe for dinner.  It was the same place we had eaten at in 2016.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked a little more after dinner.

We crossed over the Yough during this walkOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand ended up at the Youghiogheny dam.  We did not attempt to walk up to the top of the dam to see the lake behind it since there was a “No Trespassing” sign on the pathway leading up.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat was the last stop before we walked back to our place for the night.

We retired for the night after some drinks, music, and conversation.

We walked about 8 miles during the day, and rode over 11 miles.

Today promises to be a rainy day.  We will probably be riding in our rain gear.  The ride is also going to get a little more challenging because the trail is going to get steeper.

 

Riding to Smithton, PA

Here we are getting reading to ride at in the garage at Ram’s place of work.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a view of PIttsburgh as we cross the Hot Metal Bridge and the Monongahela river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a photo opportunity in Homestead, just outside of Pittsburgh.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were riding near the railroad tracks  for some time.  I believe the place was called Duquesne.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed the Monongahela river into McKeesport.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a break for a second breakfast for some of us.  Shankar had not had his morning coffee as yet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis near the confluence of the Youghiogheny and Monongahela rivers.  From now on we will leave the Monongahela, and ride along the Yough.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail climbed into the woods.  The people who built the GAP left this stretch of railroad tracks standing beside the trail. The GAP is a railtrail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made a stop at Boston and met a very interesting trail volunteer. We spent a long time chatting with him.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI thought this house by the trail looked interesting.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made many stops to take in the views and chill out.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis waterfall was depositing some white mineral on the rocks.  It could have been either natural or from some old abandoned mine.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took a break at the Beuna Vista ramp.  We had stopped here to eat teplas when we rode the trail last time in 2016.  We were too full from the late breakfast this time.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis section of the trail was built on the right of way of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie railroad.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis waterfall carries iron from the remains of an old mine.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bike must have been dropped in the water.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw fallen trees in a few places, but this was the only location where the trail was completely blocked.  We could easily get under the fallen tree.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the West Newton train station that has been converted into a museum and gift shop.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossing the Yough to go into town at West Newton.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe spent some time in West Newton.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then got back on the trail after crossing back over the river. Here we are approaching the end of the ride for the day. At this point, we got off the trail and crossed the river once again into Smithton.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe easily found the Bed & Breakfast place where we were staying for the evening. One of the natives knew exactly what we were looking for when he saw four tired people on their bikes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe building is a three story affair that is really old – from the early 20th century.  It belonged to the family of the current owner who now happens to also be the volunteer Mayor of Smithton.  It was used as a boarding house in times past.  There is a lot of history in the place that I have no time to expand on at this point.

The place used to have a working bar.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere used to be a brewery in town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe spent a delightful and very relaxed evening on the porch chatting. There was not much choice in town for dinner.  We ordered pizza from the only place that was open, and consumed it while enjoying our liquid refreshment in the cool evening breeze as the sun set.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAP7080005-1.jpgOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe also took a walk through the town.  It did not take too long to get through it.  It is a really small place. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASmithton is close to the railroad tracks.  You can hear the music of the rails and the whistle of the engines as as the freight trains roar by.  But I did not hear any trains during the night.  I must have slept well.

We rode about 40 miles yesterday.