After a perfectly inadequate Motel 6 free breakfast (worth every penny) I rolled to a gas station to buy some snacks and backup water for today’s trek. The goal was Hancock to Cumberland, the western end of the C&O Canal.
The first 12 miles were on the Western Maryland Rail Trail. Clipping along at 12 miles per hour in the cool of the Mountain morning. Wheee!
I saw deer and bunnies in abundance. Then I was startled to see a possum run across the trail in front of me. She had a baby possum on her back. Cool!
I came to a construction zone. They are extending the rail trail. I can’t wait to ride it. I cut over yo the towpath. The towpath is bumpy going on a good day but intermittent patches of mud made the next 48 miles really difficult. For the most part the mud was not deep enough to grab my front wheel. I think having loaded front panniers down low helped stabilize the bike.
Deer and bunnies and squirrels and turtles and bull frogs and snakes (including a long light brown one) and exotic sounding invisible creatures made for entertaining companions. I came upon a family of geese with several pre-fledging goslings. One of the adults rushed strait at me with its mouth open, flapping its wings. Okay, okay. Just passing through, dude. Chill already.
I stopped at Fifteen Mike campground and talked to a camper as bugs swarmed around us. He was quite a chatterbox. 70 years old but he looked far fitter than me. He advised me that mud was in my future.
He told me how to find Bill’s Place, a canal landmark that I’ve never seen before. Unfortunately it was closed so I’ll just have to ride back to check it out someday.
I talked with a group of seniors who were being dropped off to ride the canal. 0ne was on an e-bike. I paid it forward by giving them info on the towpath section I had just ridden.
I took a bio break. You can tell you are near DC when you find a book about French history in a porta potty.
As I approached the Paw Paw tunnel the mud became a quagmire. I was lucky that the edge of the towpath was covered in a carpet of leaves, perfect for walking my bike through the muck.
The tunnel has a very rough trail surface. I walked it and was glad I did. It seemed to take hours with my claustrophobia increasing with each step.
I think the prettiest section of the canal is west of the tunnel.
They told me of a cafeteria in a closed school in a place called Oldtown. I stopped there for lunch before slogging on through more and more mud.
Miles and miles of the stuff was wearing my old ass out. Each time I hit a muddy spot I’d tense up and my back would ache as it tried to keep the rubber side down. I considered taking a nearby road just to get out of the stuff. I was stopping every ten minutes to clear mud from under my fenders.
I arrived in Cumberland and a passerby took my picture.
I really should pull my pants up higher for the full geezer in a bike look, don’t you think?
I went into a bike shop to buy a Fiber Fix spoke, a gizmo that will allow me to replace a broke spike without tools. They were out of stock. They advised me not to break a spoke. Yeah well…
I used there hose to spray all the mud off The Mule. Afterward I ran into a couple who were doing a big loop bike tour: Albany to Erie to Cumberland to DC to Albany. John and Sara (I think. My fusiform gurus is on the blink again) and I talked for a good twenty minutes as we snarfed down goodies at a sandwich shop,
They headed off down the canal to find a camping spot. Happy mudding, y’all!
I tried to get a bed or room in a Cumberland hostel. It they were booked. The YMCA in town puts people up for cheap but it was apparently under siege by derelicts. I checked the Ramada but they wanted $110 and that’s not in my budget. So I headed 16 miles up the gravel GAP trail to Frostburg where I got a bed in a bunkhouse.
I’m the only one here so it’s not bad at all. I have a bed, shower, TV, and laundry.
All the muck and the gravelly uphill really wore me out. I was on the trails for 12 hours.
Bottom line: 79 miles (Tour total 206). I’m 16 miles further along than I planned. Tomorrow I ride 5 or so miles to go over the Eastern Continental Divide then downhill for the rest of the day. Zoom!