We are now in Hancock, MD, after about 60 miles of riding along the C&O Canal on its towpath. I think my fellow riders would agree that this was the toughest day of riding thus far due to the combination of the rough surface of the trail, and the fact that this was the second day of riding such a long distance. But we made it!
We left Cumberland after taking in the sights at the start of the C&O Canal.We started seeing the locks and lock houses for the first time once we started riding.
We stopped for a snack in Oldtown, MD. This was the only restaurant. It was actually located in the schoolhouse. We went in in spite of, or perhaps because of, the sign. The folks were very sweet.
Then it was time for a stop and dip at the Town Creek Aqueduct.
We arrived at the 3118 foot Paw Paw tunnel. It was an engineering marvel at the time it was completed in 1850.
We saw this amusing numbering for the locks. They apparently miscounted when they started numbering from each direction.
Then it was time for a dip in the river and lunch. Nobody loves the water as much as Koushik.
We made another stop at Fifteen Mile Creek.
We were exhausted by the time we got into Hancock. We were ready to crash out after dinner at Buddy Lou’s Eats, Drinks, and Antiques. We returned to our room for icing of sore muscles, liquid refreshments and entertainment.
It is very easy for me to fall prey to laziness. I need to train for my bike ride but I had been finding excuses to put my rides off earlier this week, as I had often done in the past.
The latest excuse that threatened to do the most damage to my training regimen was rain. While I have not been caught outside on my bike in a heavy thunderstorm thus far, we have experienced a few spectacular episodes in the evenings recently because of the extremely warm and muggy weather. (One such storm even sent water into the kitchen and I had to get some emergency work done fixing and cleaning the gutters.) Anyway, I had decided to finally bike on Thursday after the usual excuses earlier on in the week, when heavy thunderstorms struck on Wednesday evening. This was about to be my excuse to skip training on Thursday also. There was going to be mud on the trails, and even though I had tackled mud before, I was not in a mood for this kind of an experience.
When asked about why I could not find a location where I could ride on a surface without mud, I responded that I would have to drive a long way off to get to said location. But the thought stuck. Instead of dropping the whole idea of riding, I motivated myself to wake up early and drive an hour to the start of the WMRT near Hancock. The WMRT, which runs roughly parallel to the towpath, is covered with asphalt and runs about 22 miles to Pearre in Maryland, with Hancock roughly at the mid-point. So off I went!
Not only was the ride on the WMRT clean, but the surface was so smooth that I was zipping along very fast and making good time. Also, all of the reluctance that I had felt earlier on to training that day went out the door the moment I started riding!
I reached Pearre, the other end pf the WMRT, in record time! There was the temptation at that point to turn back and return to where I had started, since my only option to extend the ride was to get on the towpath which would have been impacted by the rain. But what little I had seen of the towpath from the vantage point of the WMRT on which I was riding was a dry trail. So I decided to continue further on the towpath.
The trail in that section was in a terrible condition! I found myself negotiating puddles of mud constantly. The trail for the most past consisted to two tracks with thick grass growing in-between. I tried to avoid the mud by switching tracks to avoid puddles if they were only on one side, or rode between the tracks over the grass where the puddles covered both tracks. All of this tended to slow me down considerably, especially the attempts to ride on the grass. But I was in no hurry. After about 9 or 10 miles of the trail, after crossing the old and unused Western Maryland Railroad bridge over the Potomac, I stopped to eat something and start the return trip.
I stopped occasionally to take more pictures on the way back.
My original thought was to get back to the WMRT at Pearre when returning so that I could avoid the challenges of the towpath. But as I kept riding my outlook began to change. I got more comfortable with the thought of riding through puddles. I should let this riding experience be more in line with the more challenging aspects of what I might experience during the long Pittsburgh to Gaithersburg ride, I thought. At Pearre, I stopped to take the picture below, and then continued on the towpath, with the thought that I would switch back to the WMRT a little later at Hancock.
It was a good decision. The puddles became less of an issue since trail was drier than I had expected. But, in addition to the bumpy surface, I had to deal with limbs from the trees that seemed to have fallen all over the trail. I had to stop a couple of times to remove branches that got caught in the frame of bike. Fortunately, there was no damage to the wheels. But I was also making good time, and there were also more interesting things to see from the towpath.
I switched back from the towpath to the WMRT at Hancock and took a short break, but then also changed my mind after the break about the trail I wanted to continue back on. I decided that I should really put myself to the test with the riding conditions, and got back to the towpath for the rest of the ride! The good thing was that this section of the trail had a surface of freshly compressed crushed stone. It was pretty comfortable, and the surface was dry. I made it back in good shape, but because of my adventures earlier that day, contrary to my original goal of having a clean ride, there was mud all over me and the bike at the end of the ride.
I wonder how much of rain and mud we will experience during the Pittsburgh ride. Since I have not had to ride in the rain so far I do not know how that is going to feel, but I am ready to take on muddy trails after the rains any time. And I am glad I got over my laziness on Thursday!