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 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 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 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 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 - 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.

North to South Tour - Conclusion

08/22/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator

This tour's last ride is now a week old, and it is time to summarize and reflect on the journey.

First for those who like statistics, here they are:

Major Climbs Summit
1 Sunwapta Pass 6,676
2 Bow Pass 7,003
3 Vermilion Pass 5,415
4 Sinclair Pass 4,875
5 Crowsnest Pass 4,457
6 Chief Mountain International Highway 5,300
7 Chief Mountain International Highway 5,400
8 Logans Pass 6,680
9 Lost Trail Pass 7,040
10 Chief Joseph Pass 7,241
11 Big Hole Pass 7,360
12 Badger Pass 6,760
13 SeeMore's pass* 7,000
14 Craig Pass 8,261
15 Gary's Pass* 8,391
16 Togwotee Pass 9,658
17 Muddy Gap 6,638
18 Continental Divide 7,174
19 Willow Creek Pass 9,683
20 Rocky Mountain NP Visitor Center 11,796
21 Berthoud Pass 11,315
22 Loveland Pass 11,990
23 Hoosier Pass 11,541
24 Trout Creek Pass 9,346
25 Monarch Pass 11,312
26 Dallas Divide 8,970
27 Lizard Head Pass 10,222
* Our names for the pass
Total Elevation Climbed 79824 Feet
One day - 0 miles
47 Days - 2609 miles 55.5 avg Miles
Total - 48 Days - 2609 miles 54.4 avg Miles
Shortest Day Granby, Colorado to Winter Park 22 Miles
Longest Day Lander, Wyoming to Lamont, Wyoming 101 Miles

The Rear Admiral and I agree, the toughest part of the ride was the section of Wyoming, between Lander and Rawlin. On a tour with a lot of elevation changes, it is funny that the flattest part of the journey was the most challenging; but that is what life is all about...the unexpected.

We trained for about 9 months, going to the gym 3 days a week for 15 to 18 miles of stationary bike workout. However, this really just kept the legs moving. We are still under the opinion that you can not train for a tour. Your body starts getting used to everything after day 5 or so. We are not super athletes, in my case I started the trip at least 30 pounds over weight (I lost 20 on tour). I think we proved that Adventure Cycling' Great Parks Tour can be accomplished (and enjoyed) by two healthy 49 year olds, on a recumbent tandem. SeeMore is a pretty unconventional looking bicycle, and the orange mountain goat handled the climbs very well. The worst part (for us) was going down some of the passes. You need to be careful of road conditions, vehicle traffic, speed, and your brakes. V brakes can get very hot, very fast. You can quickly warp you rims, and make them untrue, by using too much brake. As mentioned several times in the log, we think not having an extra drum brake (on a tandem) would make this tour dangerous. Lack of communication on descents, or a riding partner who has little trust in the captain, also put the long steep downhills in jeopardy. I can not thank Mary enough for her companionship and trust in my cycling ability!

As silly as this sounds, I enjoyed climbing the most. The jury is still out with the Rear Admiral. I enjoyed them because of the lack of speed, it made life slow down and made me see even more. We both agree that Sunwapta Pass was our hardest pass of the trip. We are unsure if it was the first pass, the grade, altitude adjustment, or a combination of all. When we finally arrived at the summit, both of us thought that this tour was in trouble. We were both sucking wind at 6,676 feet of would we do with all of those taller passes ahead?

One pedal at a time, is our mantra...and it works well. It happens over and over again, and it still surprises us when it happens. You go around a corner, over a hill, or turn a different direction, and the journey changes (well maybe not as fast in Wyoming). This ride was very challenging, and we list the following reasons for folks considering this tour so they can be better prepared for them: (1) Wind, it's basic earth science. Hot air rises. Most of the time when climbing a pass, you have tailwind...but this is not always the case. Most of the time when going down a pass, you have headwinds...these are much appreciated! While cycling along the mountains, you can experience very fast cross winds. Like the weather in the mountains, the winds are unpredictable. The temperatures are pretty mild in the afternoon, but in the morning it can be quite chilly. When riding along the east side of the mountains, afternoon storms occur daily, around 2:00 p.m.. (2) Traffic, hey we are visiting North America's Great Parks! However, due to the high gas prices this summer, we believe, the vehicle traffic in the parks was way down. This did not mean that the roads leading into the parks...were quiet country roads. Adventure Cycling did it's very best, but the roads on the Northern Tier in 2006 were quieter. Additionally, there are two times when you need to ride on Interstate highways to get from point A to point B. Interstate 80 in Wyoming for 13 miles and Interstate 80 for 5 miles in Colorado. They do have wide shoulders, but we do not believe SeeMore will ever get use to them. (3) This tour also puts more strain on equipment and bodies. SeeMore held up very well, but we did spend more time making sure things were going well. I replaced a chain, we had a tire blow out, my captains seat squeaked, we replaced both tires, we had 3 flats, our front idler bolt is bent, I wore through my cleats twice (probably due to a combination of brass cleats and more hiking), adjusting the transmission (sometimes the front, sometimes the back) was a weekly event, double checking the brakes on every pass before going down hill, and we now can not pedal backwards without wondering if the front chain will stay in the cranks. As you can see nothing major (except the blowout), still a lot more stress on the equipment. As far as my body, I hit my knee on a concrete picnic table in Wyoming...and thought the tour was in trouble for about half a day. My usual bicycling tour bee sting. Other then both of us donating our lungs to Sunwapta Pass, and having our hands frozen by terror (tightly wrapped on the handle bars) on our trip down to Radium Hot Springs... our body adjusted very well, and thanks to SeeMore...very little aches and pains. (4) The very worst part of the trip was the airline flight from Manchester to Edmonton, and from Durango to Manchester.

In conclusion, what a FANTASTIC journey!!! Visiting National Parks (or any land set aside for public use) on a bicycle is a pure joy. We can not recommend it enough. Both the parts (North and South) of Adventure Cycling's Great Parks Tour are well worth it, even if you can only do one part. We strongly believe that Adventure Cycling should put Yellowstone and Tetons National Park (officially on the Transamerica tour) into the Great Parks Tour; so the tour has a more continuous feel to it. In other words, a complete set of maps titled Great Parks (including Yellowstone and Tetons) instead of using the Transamerica tour as a link between the North and South sections. Please, quietly remember that Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a real gem...but please don't tell too many people! We are again indebted to Mom and Dad for being there at the end to help of tie up the loose ends and get us home; Perry and Roberta, thank you for adopting Sammy for the summer and treating her as though she were your own; and a special thanks to Kate for keeping an eye on all the stuff at home between your hikes . We couldn't do these tours with out all of your support!