8/17/12 Frostburg to Hancock, MD – 70 miles
The day started off with great promise. A little overcast, but nothing to be alarmed about. We got back on the GAP trail and resumed what seemed like “charmed” bike riding. We were still high enough up to get some beautiful panoramic views interspersed with riding right alongside the railroad tracks. And all pretty much downhill, so we cruised.
The GAP trail ended after approx. 18 miles in Cumberland, MD. At this point, we picked up the Chesapeake and Ohio Rail Trail that runs over 200 miles to Washington, DC. For some reason, I expected this trail to be as well maintained and easy to ride as the GAP. I was wrong. I think it would be fair to say that the C & O is more suitable for hybrid or mountain bikes. Not that you can’t ride a road bike or touring bike, but the trail was quite rough, with a lot of water- filled potholes. The old canal locks were interesting, but it was hard to take in the scenery while trying to hold the bike on the trail and avoid potholes. After about 10 miles or so, I suggested we take a look at the state highway running parallel to the trail. Randy agreed and we got off at the next access point on to highway 50. I loved highway 50. Nice smooth pavement and pretty scenery. There was some traffic, but it didn’t bother me that much. Also, quite a bit of that medium to steep rolling hill activity, but I don’t seem to mind the hills as much as Randy.
After about 10 miles, Randy wanted to get back on the C & O trail, mainly because he didn’t feel safe, plus he will do almost anything to avoid the hills. It was one of the few times we have differed in route preference. So, we got back on the trail. We planned on stopping at a town called Paw Paw for lunch. Back to the potholes and uneven riding. Shortly after getting back on, I noticed that my rear tire was going flat. I stopped and put air in, hoping that the stop gap measure would hold for a while. It didn’t. So, I stopped and started changing the tire. Randy was some distance ahead, so I e-mailed and let him know I had a flat. He came back and helped me finish the repair and we resumed riding. After some time, we came upon the Paw Paw Tunnel, which is a 3100 ft long unlit tunnel. There is a very narrow path inside along a wall with weep holes and water- filled potholes bordered by a wooden guard rail that I assume is supposed to keep you from plunging into the black depths. It was very creepy and slow-going. After what seemed forever pushing, slowly riding and scooting along, I came out the other side and waited for Randy. The look on his face was telling. The trip through the tunnel was a little harrowing for him also. It was at that point that we pulled out the less than helpful trail map and realized that we had somehow missed the access off the trail to the town for lunch. Another example of a poorly marked trail.
I decided to stop a minute and eat an apple for lunch, since we still had probably another 30 miles or so to go, and I was hungry. About 2 bites in, it started raining. In no time it turned into a downpour and I was drenched. That would have been bad enough, but this was a cold rain. I looked at Randy and we just sort of laughed – I mean, what are you going to do. So, we headed down the trail and rode in the downpour. Only now the trail was covered in water up to 3 inches or so in a lot of places. So, we more or less pedaled through water for what seemed like forever. Eventually, the rain stopped. We took a break and ate some more snacks. My water bottles were covered with this black mud stuff and so I ate a little dirt with my water. Got back on the trail and soon the downpour resumed. It was a truly miserable remaining 25 miles or so. By the time we finally reached Hancock, it was going on 6:30 pm and I was tired, wet and covered with that black trail mud/dirt mixture. Not to mention the bike and panniers. We checked into a motel and hosed everything down. Spent a little time hanging out wet stuff and cleaning the panniers as best I could. Eventually got around to trying to clean me up. By the time we got out to dinner, I was pretty much numbed out by the whole day. One for the books.