Allegheny and C&O Trails - Dustin, Greg and the Captain on Spring Break

Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trails - Preface

04/05/2009 10:06:41 by Administrator

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible." - T.E. Lawrence

The dream was conceived in daylight; a good friend and a "son / father" team will pedal from Meyersdale, PA to Washington D.C. and back. The cycling companions will be following the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Trails. Greg Stoutenburg, a fellow cyclist, good friend, and a rookie bicycling tourist will join SeeMore for this week-long adventure. The Rear Admiral will graciously (and begrudgingly) let our son Dustin take on the stoker's position. Even though Dustin has been on many cycling adventures (that his Mom and Dad forced on him), this will be his first self contain bicycle tour. We will meet Saturday morning (April 25th) and head towards D.C.

As usual, our main plan is to ride and explore. Whether or not we make it to D.C. will depend on weather and the amount of local taverns that can be fully explored.

Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trails - Day 1

04/25/2009 10:06:41 by Administrator

Meysersburg PA
3 miles east of the Paw Paw Tunnel
67 miles

It was a LONG drive down from New Hampshire. Especially from Worcester to the Pennsylvania boarder. In some section of this I felt like I was part of a NSCAR race, in other parts I was in a huge parking lot. The longest of these parking lots was the 5 miler in Hartford.

For the ride down, I purchase a book on tape to listen to from the used bin of our local book store. It is made up of 10 cassettes, and the first 6 run very well. Tape seven is bad, and I couldn't hear the story on either side. Oh well, it kept me company.

I quietly pulled the camper into the trail head parking lot at 1:30 in the morning. At the far end, Dustin and Greg were asleep in Dustin's pickup truck. Meyersdale is famous for three things. One, the Dollar General is open at 1:30 in the morning, since Meyesdale is a bustling metropolitan community with a population of 2,400, I think that it is important that this fine retail establishment would be open late on a Friday night..... The second item that Meyersdale is famous for is maple syrup, so I had some in the morning with my pancakes. The last is trains, trains, trains, and more trains which run through town 24/7, every 15 minutes. Two or three trains sometimes run through center of time. It's a Meyersdale law that the need to blow their whistle hard and long, while going through town.

We headed down the Great Allegahy Pass (GAP) Trail under cloudy skies with temperatures in the 80's. We met few other trail users along the trail from Meyersdale to Cumberland. You climb for the first 6 miles up to Savage Tunnel, if you want to call it climbing (it's very gentle). We past across the Eastern Continental divide, where on the east side, water flows to the Atlantic, and on the west side it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Then a fun ride through the well lit, Savage Tunnel. From the Savage tunnel, it was a downhill coast into Cumberland. You start a 2,400 elevation at the Eastern Continental divide, and 25 mile later in Cumberland the elevation is 600 feet. The trail mainly travel directly next to railroad tracks, which are active, but we did not see or hear a train. The GAP is very well maintained, with hard packed crushed stone.

In Cumberland we stopped into the National Park's C&O Canal Visitor Center, then had lunch at the Crabby Pig, outside on the patio. We had plan to stop in Cumberland for the night, but kept on riding. Why not, with wild life, flowering trees and wild flowers, and the beautiful canal trail. Greg and I rode side by side for 95 percent of the ride today. The clouds disappeared, and the temperature reach 90 degrees. Maybe it was first day excitement, but we pasted campsite after campsite.

It was about 2 pm when we detoured from the path into the town of Oldtown. We were looking for a convience store which was listed in Greg's book about the C&O. We saw a hand written sign for food and drink, and we took a right. Rode past the Oldtown school and about a half mile out of town into the Maryland countryside. Not seeing anything, we turned around. Looking closer at the school, we notice a cafe sign. The last High School graduating class from Oldtown was in 2000. The community now uses the school as a cafe. The school itself looks like time stop in 2000. Where the students of Oldtown once ate their school lunch is now a make shift cafe that is open from 8 to 8 daily. Dustin and I had some peanut butter pie that lady said would force us to come back again. She didn't realize that I am an expert on tasting peanut butter pie, and although it was tasty....I wouldn't pedal out of my way to have another slice.

After our break in Oldtown, we continued looking for a campsite on the trail. We past a couple of them, but we were not ready to stop for the night. We finally agreed to bike into Paw Paw West Virginia (a mile of the trail and across the Potomac) for pizza. Then because the boy scouts have taken over the Paw Paw campground, we rode through the Paw Paw tunnel....well walked through. Greg led, and Dustin and I rode through half of it. But after hitting the side of the tunnel for the fourth time, and the fact that we couldn't stop laughing...and followed Greg's lead, and walked.

We stopped for the night just east of the Sorrel Ridge campsite (which was full of tents!). We set up the tents with a commanding view of the Potomac, and had some celebratory beers.

Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trails - Day 2

04/26/2009 10:06:41 by Administrator

3 miles east of the Paw Paw Tunnel
Williamsport MD
57 miles

With the Prince of Wales II down, it was 15 miles to Little Orleans. In Little Orleans, right off the trail, is Bill's Country Cafe. Bill's is run by....well Bill, a 85 year young grandfather who looks to young to be 85. The sign on the door said; "If the light is on, ring the bell and I will open up. So after ringing the bell, we were greeted by Bill who was dressed in a green tee-shirt with "Sir Bill" printed on the front. We helped ourselves to a gallon of milk, a half gallon of OJ, a box of cereal from the small selection of groceries. We were given cups, bowls, spoons, and sugar. While we ate our gourmet meal. Bill sat on a bar stool, next to us, and we exchanged stories. Talking and meeting people is one of the best part of touring on SeeMore. Bill has had a full life, and even exciting about the future. He then told us that he has stage 4 lung cancer. Last April the doctors Bill 6 months to live. With the way he moved around, his positive attitude and his enjoyment of life, I would be surprise if he doesn't continue to prove the experts wrong. Before we left, we marked up a dollar bill for Bill to hang on the celling. Our dollar will join the hundreds of one dollar bills that are already there. If you riding the C&O, stop in Little Orleans and enjoy Bill's.

Full of food and good companionship, we then continue heading down the C&O. On left side of the trail (going east) is the canal. On the right side is the Potomac. Hundreds of birds can be seen while riding the trail. Green Herons, bluebirds, woodpeckers, Canadian geese, wood ducks, cardinals, titmice, gold finches, turkey buzzards, red wing blackbirds, and many others. We had a red tail hawk catch a mouse about 20 feet to the right of us, it was hungry and was not afraid of SeeMore.

We stopped for lunch at the Park and Dine resturants in Hancock. Then rode side by side to Williamsport. The trail was busy is places which was very nice to see. There are campsites with water, port-a-john, picnic table, and grills every 5-10 miles all along the C&O. We stopped at North Mountain campsite for a little afternoon break. It was 93 degrees out today, so the cold water was greatly appreciated.

I needed a shower, so we are staying in the Red Roof Inn. We just came back from have Chinese food and Dustin must have worked very hard today because at 7:15, he is asleep.

Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trails - Day 3

04/27/2009 10:06:41 by Administrator

Williamsport MD
Brunswick MD
54 miles

Just more of the same....sounds boring right? WRONG! We started our day at the Waffle House where we watch Dustin eat the "All Star" breakfast. Man I thought the Rear Admiral could put away food! We had the Waffle House all to ourselves, which either means the economy is bad or it's the food. This is the first Waffle house that I have been to, the food was ok....I enjoyed the grits.

We were like three little school boys, giddy, as we entered the towpath. And why not, it was going to be another hot day (it reached 92), the Potomac would be on our right, the canal would be on our left, the trail was hard pack and dry, the flowering wild flowers and trees colored the trail, the wild life abundant, and the trail covered with trees making it feel like some kind of magical tunnel. Yep, just plain boring.

We met a lot of walkers today. There is a group of retired hikers who are hiking the trail. They have a sag wagon, but they all have lots of energy. Most of them noticed SeeMore from the hotel last night. Here's a question; how many "Good Mornings" can you hear, and then get sick of hearing them? Answer, you never get tired of hearing it!

The C&O has a detour near Dam 4, which puts you on some Maryland country roads. Then it's back on the towpath. Before we knew it, we were in Shepherdstown and eating lunch and having a cold one. Shepherdstown is a college town, and even though the climb out and up from the towpath is a challenge, it's a worthwhile trip across the bridge into West Virginia. After lunch, SeeMore went down is a heap. We were on Main street, about 3 blocks from lunch when a Ford pickup truck narrowed the space that SeeMore needs to travel through near a parked van. Truth is, plain and simple, the Captain made a bonehead move. I saw what the Ford was doing and should have stopped. So at a whopping 2 mph, we went down.....well just SeeMore and I. Somehow Dustin was standing beside us, as we went down. Only thing hurt was my pride.

I thought about what happened for a very short time, once you get back on the towpath, thoughts like that disappear when everything around you is peaceful. Greg and I resumed our traveling side - by - side, and the "Good Afternoons" (cousins of the 'Good Mornings") began. The only thing exciting was that SeeMore limiting screw snapped off. This screw sets the distance between the handlebars and the Captain. Nothing to do but get a small stone and wedge it in.

We parked our bikes and walked across the the converted railroad bridge into Harpers Ferry. It is the 5th or 6th time I have visited Harpers Ferry. Harpers Ferry is located on a hilly piece of land, sandwiched between the Shenandoah river and Potomac river. It was one of the United States first weapons manufacturing armories (muskets), it change hands 8 times during the Civil war, but was mostly control by the Union. Harpers Ferry is most famous for the John Brown rebellion (1859). You can read about it on the net. But it is very interesting John Brown was an abolitionist who advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to end all slavery; ironically a freed slave became the first casualty of the raid.

After walking up and down the streets of Harpers Ferry, we walked across the converted railroad bridge, mounted our iron horses and continued on to Brunswick and chose the Brunswick Community Campground as our home for the night. The Prince of Wales II is up and looking over the Potomac. We will be heading into town shortly for dinner, and tonight we will get to be rocked gently asleep by the sounds of the modern railroad. Yes sir, there are 8 train tracks that parallel the campsite, and a train yard. Oh boy!

Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trails - Day 4

04/28/2009 10:06:41 by Administrator

Brunswick MD
Williamsport MD
56 miles

We turned around with 50 miles to Washington D.C. We couldn't find a hotel for less than 200 dollars in Georgetown, and there was really no we are heading back toward Pennsylvania. Another day with cloudless skies, and temperatures in the low 90's. Boy does this stink.....not!

If your staying at the Brunswick Community Campground, and you're in a tent, you will dream all about trains. You will dream that you're a lineman, you will dream that you're a train whistle, you will dream that you're an engineer, you will dream that you're a conductor.......ok there is A LOT of trains and train noises, at night, when you try to sleep by the Potomac.

We had breakfast at Mommas in downtown Brunswick where we enjoyed both the food and the company. Greg and I sat back and marveled at the amount of food Dustin packed away. I have always been surprised at the amount food the Rear Admiral can put away at breakfast, while on tour. It must be that back seat, because Dustin does the same thing.

Today was a day of mechanical concerns. First Bertha (our large backpack) would not stay in place. We stopped a number of times until finally Dustin figured out that the yellow sack wasn't on correctly. Next SeeMore lost the front chain, I think it was a stick that got caught in it. Next Dustin looked down and saw that one of the the S and S couplings had come lose, so.....everything off and turn SeeMore upside down. It was a good thing because we found out during this repair, the rear shift cable was not in it's slots (which explained some of the hard shifting in the morning). No big issues, until Greg broke a spoke which made his tire wobble with about 10 miles left in today's travel. Still not a big issue because we knew of a bicycle shop in Williamsport.

We had a GOURMET picnic lunch at Dam 4 of Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, beef jerky, and trail mix. We then decided to head up the C&O on the closed section. So ignoring the signs, we head up the trail until we couldn't ride anymore, then turn around to follow the detour that takes you through country roads.

Everything is green, trail was beautiful, and a wasp flew up my shorts.

We are back at the Red Roof Inn, Greg's wheel is fixed and we are excited about having a "boys" night with beer and Stanley Cup hockey.

Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trails - Day 5

04/29/2009 10:06:41 by Administrator

Williamsport MD
Cumberland MD
84 miles

What change one day can bring. The temperature has dropped 30 degrees and the grey skies greeted us as we made another stop at the Waffle House. This time there were more customers enjoying waffles and coffee. Dustin again packed away the "All Star" breakfast. Where the heck is all this food going?

On the morning ride, we were treated to a barn owl sighting. He "who-ed" we "who-ed", we thought he must have a resent kill on the ground because he stayed between two trees (flying back and forth) next to the towpath. We have seen so many different animals on this trip. Dustin and I also spotted a nearly all albino whitetail deer today.

We had a 25 miles ride in store for us this morning, then lunch in Hancock. The boys enjoyed each other's company and before we knew it, we were sitting down for lunch at Weavers in Hancock. If you find yourself in Hancock Maryland, and looking for food.....go to Weavers! Since you must pass the two large cakes and pies displays before you are seated at Weavers, you begin to remember that your mother is not along on this trip...and maybe having pie first, then the meal, is a good idea. I looked at the menu and saw chef salad. So I am thinking....hum...a little salad...then pie......Mom would be pleased that her training is still working after 50 years.

Then the "little salad" came out. Not only was is good and priced right, but I had no room for pie! Dustin's meal however didn't stop him. After consuming his turkey sandwich, french fries and gravy, he moved on to one quarter of Greg's turkey club sandwich. Then as Greg and I tearfully looked on, the S.O.B. ordered and ate a slice of chocolate cream pie!

Stuffed (at least Greg and I were) we headed back on the trail. And then............with 30 miles to Cumberland...the rain came.

We had also stopped in Hancock for some supplies. We thought we would get to the Paw Paw tunnel, hunker down in Paw Paw under the gas station's overhang until the worst of it was over...then find a campsite for the night. This plan changed when we all realize that the rain wasn't going away, and the trio did not wish to set up camp in the rain. I wish to say that the last 30 miles on the C&O was fun, but it wasn't. It was a blessing in disguise though. For Greg's and Dustin to experience the whole bike touring experience, they need this. Most of the time you tour, very seldom do you ride. And for thirty miles into Cumberland, we rode.

For thirty miles, the bikes got muddy and wet, the riders got muddy and wet, and the trail was completely muddy and wet. All this wetness made the trail was very greasy. SeeMore went down twice when his back end just slide from underneath Dustin and I. Since we couldn't travel very fast, both times didn't hurt, just made us more muddy and wet. For thirty miles all I did was focus on my single track, puddles, and trying to pick the best line to the next point. It seemed that the more we rode, the more the trail conditions got worse. With about 5 miles to go, we made a command decision to abandon the trail. Using the GPS, we found a road that connected us to route 51 which led us to Cumberland.

Before we reached the Holiday Inn, we stopped at a car wash and hosed the bikes down. You should see the hotel room right now, there are wet clothes all over. Greg's bike and SeeMore are downstairs in the hall for the night. We are about to go out and have some well deserved steaks and a couple beers.

Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trails - Day 6

04/30/2009 10:06:41 by Administrator

Cumberland MD
Meyersdale PA
33 miles

The boys were up late today. When you push loaded touring bikes through mud and rain, you earn a sleep in. I got up early, and searched the web for the local weather. I learned that today's weather was going to be mostly cloudy until the afternoon when the skies were going to produce that four letter word. It didn't look good for tomorrow , nor Saturday.

We were in great spirits as we packed up the hotel room from the tornado that occurred last night, and headed down Central street to Joe's Aqueduct for breakfast. Dustin continued his eating spree, with two orders of French Toast. Greg and I are no longer suprised, but Greg has made a new rule. Dustin is not allowed to cycle the day of, or the day before he is invited over their house for dinner!

This morning's ride featured the climb out of the Potomac river valley. Remember that easy ride down from Meyersdale on day 1? Well what goes down, must climb up. I believe that Greg remarked that we average a whopping 6 mph during our 25 mile ascent up Savage Mountain. The climb was not bad, just steady.....very much like climbs out in the western United States. SeeMore and I love climbing because time slows down. Dustin and I got to continue our visit, but Greg rode mostly ahead of us. SeeMore only goes one speed up hill, and I was surprised that Greg wasn't even further ahead of us. Greg was not without companionship though, a husband and wife team had a long conversation with him as they all rode together up towards Savage Tunnel. Except for a brave few, the trail was void of cyclist and even wild life. Greg saw a flock of turkeys, and Dustin and I saw a turkey in full flight, which is such a bizarre sight.

The rain stayed away until we saw the Meyersdale train station. We then packed every thing out of the weather, and walked down to the "Take Six" for a late lunch (it was 3:00). All of us eating and pretending the tour wasn't over. We then walked up to the Creamery Stop, where Dustin finished off a large brownie sundae. Back at the vehicles we pretended that the riding wasn't over, but we finally caved in. Knowing that I wasn't going to be able to share a beer with Greg, or share time with Dustin....for a little bit....made the ending bittersweet.

I would like to thank Greg's family for allowing me to steal him away for a week, and I would like to thank Dustin for one hell of a Christmas present!