C&O Canal — GAP, 2008 – Finger Lakes Cycling Club

This is a summary of the ride by Pam, one of the participants in the bike tour we took from Washington, DC, to Pittsburgh, PA. Participants were three FLCC members and three acquaintances from the Bay Area of California. Steve Powell and Joe Lesh worked out all the details of how to get there and back as well as the stops each night.

Although I have only been home for a week, details of our great trip are fading quickly; Therefore, I better get this down while I have a few memories left.

Joe secured overnight lodgings at the French House at Rockwood Manor on secluded conference grounds [about 10 or 15 miles from DC along the C&O canal]. We stayed here both going and returning, some for 1 day, others more, and Joe for 7. They let us leave our vehicles here for the week at no extra cost. This was a real find, Joe. It was only about 1/2 mile from the trail. On Sat the 12th, Joe and I rode to Georgetown and back looking for mile “0.” The New York gang arrived in the afternoon and also rode some of it. Art arrived towards evening. We all went out for dinner at the Hunter’s Inn. I found out then how much these people can eat and still say so thin. I had to get a take-out box, but the others still had room for ice-cream. This set the precedent of the daily lookout for the local ice-cream shop!

Sun,13th, 8 AM we begin at mile 12 1/2. Saw our first of many, many locks (73+), lockhouses, and aqueducts. Lunch was at White’s Ferry (the last on the Potomac) which takes cars and people to Leesburg. I only had pretzels for lunch as the lone proprietor seemed sooo busy. I soon learned this was a mistake on my part, because I had little energy to get to the next stop which was Brunswick where I was able to get a sandwich at the Beans in the Belfry (a church complete with stained glass and pews turned into a coffee house.) I believe it was here that we first met Josh who ended up joining our group. As Joe had a tire bulge, he bought an extra from Josh. Art had his first of three flats. Then came our first (and only) downpour. I had a blowout and Chief Joseph changed it in the pouring rain. We made it to the spiral metal staircase to get onto the bridge which would take us to Harper’s Ferry. This was no small feat. We took refuge in the Secret 6 Tavern leaving 6 puddles on the floor. Since the skies didn’t look promising Joe was able to get us in to the Town’s Inn across the street. This was a charming old (1850) place with a host who even did our laundry. This sure beat setting up tents in the rain.

Mon,14th, we woke up to blue skies. Since I am the slowest member, I try to get a head start on the trail as everyone passes me up eventually. I’ve named my hybrid,”The Big Brown Slug.” It is so heavy; besides I have to blame my slow pace on the bike, not me! This was our longest day at 68 miles. I about fainted from hunger as we didn’t lunch at the Desert Rose in Williamsport til 3 PM and 40 miles. I had another flat! This time Joe changed it in a mosquito infested swamp area while I dabbed Deet on him. I have upgraded his status to Saint Joseph! We made it to Hancock and the “Chicken coop” This was a screened in porch with lots of wooden bunks, ouside showers and toilets and a secure fenced in area behind the local bike shop. As we had done a lot of miles and got in pretty late, made it barely before closing time to Weaver’s.

Tues,15th; After a hearty breakfast up Main Street we checked out the C & O bike shop and most people bought something. Art and I bought spare tubes! Lunch was at Bill’s Place, and Bill was actually there. Ran into another tour group here. Poor Art had his 3rd flat! We got to go through the famous Paw Paw tunnel; We walked our bikes with our lights on. I noticed on the cover of Adventure Cycling, the riders are NOT walking out of he tunnel. We cycled into Paw Paw, W. VA. where it was near impossible to find any wine. Steve and Joe secured supplies for our evening meal. Josh joined us at Town Creek Aqueduct campsite. Great pasta and sauce and cucumber meal. Thanks guys. 42 miles today

Wed,16th; Got off to my early start after a small breakfast. It was so enjoyable to go slow and enjoy all the early morning critters enjoying the pond scum which is actually very nutritious as turtles, frogs, birds, and fish live and eat in it. We ate a big breakfast in the Oldtown Kitchen (a converted high school).
Once again I started off first and almost made it to Cumberland before I decided maybe I was lost. Of course, there was another bike shop at the end of the 185 mile C & O Canal tow path. After a long lunch in town, we began the Great Allegheny Passage on the rail to trails. This gravel made the C & O look like a paved highway! Also it was much more exposed, making for a very long hot ride. Steve and Lorie surprised Joe, Art and me at mile 15 with some much needed gatorade and cookies. After more tunnels, crossing into PA at the Mason-Dixon Line, and reaching the continental divide, we had another 2-3 miles to reach the Mason-Dixon campsite. After thinking I am literally going to die pushing my bike up those last hills and not rolling into camp til 8:30 pm, it is amazing to me how quickly I recover. Had raspberries in Merlot for dinner. Yummy. Josh and Lorie hauled those 2 bottles up that long hill. Thanks a lot.50 miles today.

Thurs,17th; Only had to pedal about 12 miles to first stop, Meyersdale for our 2nd breakfast. at the Java Cafe. Then another 12 miles to Rockwood for lunch after, of course, visiting another bike shop. I reached Confluence first by following the bike path; the others crossed into town instead and purchased supplies for our evening meal to be prepared by Lorie and Art. Not to be outdone by Lorie and Josh carrying wine, Steve carried a watermelon on his bike cushioned by his daughter, Bonnie’s, homemade pillow! This was a fairly easy ride today til we got to Ohiopyle where we all (not just me) had to push our bikes up hill to reach the campsite. Another pasta dinner topped off by the watermelon which Steve sliced with a bike spoke! 54 miles today.

Fri,18th; After a grueling hill to get out of the campsite, we made it to Kentuck Knob, A Frank Lloyed Wright house built in the 50’s. Whee! A fun downhill leaving. Arrived in Connellsville and bought 18 bottles of beer at a tavern. Crazy rules in these eastern states. We Californians are spoiled. Camped at the River’s Edge where Joe and I cooled off close to nature while the others chose the pool. Andrejs and I ordered pizza which was delivered straight to the campsite. This went well with the beer. To heck with that cooking stuff. Here we met Mertie from Seattle who is pedaling all by herself all the way across the U.S. Impressive.

Sat,19th; After another oatmeal breakfast (sick of that) rode to West Newton for another breakfast! This was the slowest service ever. We had a deadline of meeting our ride in McKeesport. I was paranoid of not getting there in time so left without barely eating (had a bite of Steve’s) but made it there first (again). I noticed they all had time to stop for ice cream in Boston! This was essentially the end of our ride. After viewing the nonexistent trail to Pittsburgh we were glad to be in a van. He dropped us off at Duquesne University where we were able to actually take our bikes into the dorm rooms. They gave us very official looking ID cards. I had always wanted to go away to college and live in a dorm! Walked down 211 steps to get to Martini’s for dinner. Joe reminded us that there is a pawn shop on a corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Anyone figure out the name of that song?

Sun, 20th. said our good-byes and hugs to Lorie who was being picked up by her son. We rode our bikes downtown for a bite at a bagel house and then found our way to the train station where they were extremely helpful at boxing up our bikes for their journey back to WDC. Since Joe and Steve had made all the other reservations, I has wrongly assumed that they had also made the railroad ticket reservations! Luckily, the same helpful guy got me a ticket. The rest of the day was spent on a walking tour of Pittsburgh. Got caught in a “sand”storm before the rain started, but took refuge in the Hyatt for a local beer, Ironside. I guess they thought we were guests of the hotel, because they hailed a hotel van to take us to the incline, a funicular, where, you guessed it, they found the ice cream shop. I even gave in and ate some for the first time of the trip (just to help Joe finish his huge double scoop!) Finished the day with dinner at Houlihan’s.

Mon, 21st. We waited nearly an hour for 2 taxi’s to take us to train station. After a long day of sitting we arrived late at Union Station, WDC. Waited over an hour at this end, too, for our bikes. Art had to leave for his plane which meant we had to leave his bike there. The train employees were none too happy about this. Josh was at the station to meet and guide us back to the trail. Back to the Hunter’s Inn for dinner at 10 PM.

Tues 22nd. Steve and Andrejs took off today. Joe and I drove to Gettysburg. Very educational museum and visitor’s center. The highlight was lunch at Dobbin’s Inn built in 1776 and a stop at a roadside stand for fresh peaches, corn, beans, peppers, and onions. I bought Maryland wine which tasted like grape juice. I now see why most all the wine is from California! Joe cooked a yummy dinner.

Wed 23rd. Met Josh at the Gravelly Point exit to ride the 14 miles up to Mt. Vernon, another educational must-see. We stopped at a Murphy’s bar in Alexandria for dinner. On way back went right over a black snake who proceeded to roll himself up!!! Got caught in rain and dark. Found refuge in the good old Rockwood Manor where we finished off the wine and peaches and discussed what a great trip he and Steve had organized. While a couple of days were grueling for me, I am extremely glad to have done it and actually look forward to the next trip (on a touring bike)! Overall, I have just over 400 miles on my odometer.

Til next time, Happy Biking, Pam