Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | August 15, 2016

Days 57-60: Grinding — and more pie-pounding — to the finish

Day 57-60
Destination: Great Allegheny Passage/C&O Canal trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.
Four-day mileage: 275. Total: 3,459

Mark facing east

I’ve kept my eyes focused eastward this whole trip.

Guys, I’ve been too tired to write these past few days. … Trail riding is much more difficult than road riding, it turns out.

 

I knew that, of course. But at the end of a long journey, it’s hard to appreciate the beauty and amazing convenience of riding trails all the way from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. I haven’t made it to D.C. just yet. That happens Tuesday (tomorrow). We stopped today 59 miles short of D.C. — in Harper’s Ferry. But I’ve ridden for four days on these trails and have alternately loved it and loathed it.

First the love.

 

Mark and Sally

Cousin Sally: Hero!

Day 57: My cousin Sally Byrne is the hero of these past four days. She not only volunteered to help secure a bike for me to ride on the trails, she delivered it to me in Pittsburgh (she lives outside of Baltimore). She drove for four hours, had breakfast with us, rode with me for 30 miles and then (thanks to Melody), was delivered back to her car where she trekked back to Baltimore. That’s family for you. The best kind of family.

 

The Great Allegheny Passage trail was beautiful and wonderfully maintained. There were plenty of places to stop for food or water. And the crushed limestone path was almost as good as pavement. I managed 60 or so miles the first day and then Melody and I set up in the … wait for it … Melody Motor Lodge in Connellsville, PA. We just had to stay there!

Melody motor lodge kiss

Of course, we had to stay at the Melody Motor Lodge.

Day 58: The next day, I woke up and pushed as hard as I could to get as far down the line as possible. Turns out, the gradual grade leading to my next destination — Frostburg, PA., was hard. It was about 60-65 miles of a slight incline. Maybe 2 percent. Maybe 3. I’m not 100 percent certain. But going slightly uphill for 6 hours or more takes its toll. It was hot, too, but that wasn’t the problem. Maybe the fact that I’ve been riding so long, that’s what got to me. Yeah, let’s go with that.

Anyway, I made it to Frostburg after a joyous 10 miles of downhill grade. We spent the night at a cool little historic hotel — Hotel Gunther — and sauntered across the street to the Princess restaurant, a local landmark. We ate dinner at a booth just a few seats away from where Harry and Bessy Truman sat on a visit to the restaurant many years ago. It’s a great spot — check it out if you’re riding the path. It’s family-owned since 1939.

Pie from Princess restaurant

The Princess Restaurant did pie right. It’s almost as if they knew I was coming!

Day 59: After a 15-mile sprint to Cumberland, Md., it was on to the C&O Canal Towpath — and a whole new level of pain. There is a profound difference, it turns out, between a crushed limestone path (GAP) and one that is alternately gravel, dirt, mud, and rock strewn with tree branches and water-filled potholes (C&O). But pain be damned, I was determined to push through whatever I needed to go the distance. My goal was to travel about 75 miles to Hancock.

I met Melody for lunch about 35 miles into the journey, in Old Town. I was beat up. My wrists were sore. My back was sore. I was hungry and I was thirsty. Old Town had, I think, one small diner but we were directed to the Fire Department, where they were hosting a Sunday “dinner.” The feast was the kind you’d find in many small communities across the country. It was billed as a fund-raiser for the volunteer fire department and there was a relatively small turnout. But the food was great — salmon cakes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, plus a small fruit plate, and dessert. If you read this blog, you know which way I went for dessert: that’s right, pie!

Princess and the pie

The stop at the Old Town firehouse fund-raiser dinner was a success, thanks to pie delivered by Ariana, a superstar in her own right.

Fueled up, I carried on down the trail — mud-splattered, body aching but the memory of a cherry cream pie lodged in the pleasure centers of my brain.

Day 60: On to Harper’s Ferry, W.Va. Another 60 miles in the books and so close to D.C. (only 59 miles away) that I can almost taste it. I know that I said at the top that I’ve loathed part of this trail, and that’s true. It’s rough. It’s hard on my body after two months of riding. But it is truly a gift for the area. I mean, I’m riding along the Potomac River and the C&O Canal. It’s deeply shaded, so even on a hot day like today (Monday), with heat advisory warnings being sounded, I was able to plod along until I got to this little historic spot.

And just after I loaded up the bike and we headed to one more hotel stay (yeah, we’ve kind of packed it in on the camping front), the skies opened up, lightning flashed and the rain pored down. But we’re high and dry and ready for tomorrow. D.C., here we come.

After arriving in D.C., we’ll take a couple of days off before making the final push to the Delaware shore (I’ll bike that on Saturday and Sunday). But it’s almost over. I’ll try to spend some times in the coming days thinking about that a bit more, but as I have during this entire trip, I’ll try to take it all in stride. One pedal stroke at a time until I can stride across the sandy beach and dip a tire into the ocean. Can’t wait.

wide shot canal trail

Heading east — always east — on the C&O Canal Towpath. Looks benign here, but looks can be deceiving.

 

 

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Responses

  1. Thank you for this wonderful update of the last 4 days. I’ve been waiting for it! Am very excited for you. Riding vicariously with you all the way so I’m excited too for you to dip that front tire in the ocean on the other side of the country from where you started.

  2. Mark: I’ve read every one of your posts, even while I’ve been on a (non-biking) trip to Italy. Writing now from a comfy hotel at the Rome airport, and we leave tomorrow, back to MN. You’re an inspiration, though I doubt I have a coast-to-coast ride in me (I have 10+ years on you). Love to you and the fair Melody. Would love to see you in MN or Chicago!

  3. Like each of your other posts, I’ve greatly enjoyed reading your narrative and then poring over the small details that give each moment its character — like that priceless ad for an “indoor flea market,” and the second-to-last photo of the pie hand-off, you and the girl posing like a couple of dignitaries who have just signed an accord. And I’m just seeing the highlights! Can’t begin to imagine what a rich experience it’s been for you and Melody. Godspeed to you both as you tackle the last leg; may the well-groomed and evenly graded trails rise up to meet you, and may the wind be ever at your back.

  4. The pie from Princess is the pie photo I’ve been waiting for your whole trip. Guess I can stop reading the blog now.


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