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From the monthly archives: November 2013

Elevation of of the entire ride (starting from the right)

This trip, a three day 350-mile ride on the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal, was planned as a continuation of the budding “bro-mance” between Russ Adams and Paul Morris, so naturally I invited myself along :) .  Several more joined on as the planning progressed and we started the trip last Thursday with six:  Russ, Paul, Barry, Dee, Michelle and myself.


The Fix

The fun started weeks before the actual departure.  We met up at the Gaithersburg DFH on Thursday night for a couple of beers and a little bit of food, then headed up toward Pittsburg, dropping off Michelle’s car in Hancock so she could go to work on Sunday. Found the hotel after a very scenic accidental tour of the heights of Pittsburg (“Uh, guys? Our road is down there. WAY down there”)

Day 1 (125 miles): We have a slight problem….
Michelle had brought the wrong skewer/parts for her wheels, rendering her bike unrideable. Our early departure plans were put on hold while we woke up local biking friends, googled the closest REI, and waited for a nearby hardware store to open. Russ and Paul get the McGyver Award for working with the guy at the hardware store to fashion an excellent substitute.

Finally on our way... (note the beer in Russ's hand)

By the time we reached Ohiopyle it was getting cold and dark. We put on lights and extra layers, stuffed warmers in our shoes, and prepared for the 30 miles between us and the hotel. Barry was busy pumping up his tires and the others were swapping gear around, so Dee and I started down the trail to keep warm. We had paused for a few minutes when we heard a loud gunshot, practically on top of us. “Huh…. they’re shooting a little close to town, aren’t they?” Then the texts came in: “Stop! Barry popped his tire and they’re going back to Ohiopyle to fix it.”

Michelle: “It sounded like a gunshot and then Barry fell over. We thought he’d been shot.”

We weren’t sure how long the tire and wheel repair was going to take, so Dee, Michelle and I started riding, knowing the boys would catch us somewhere before dinner. When they did at the base of the biggest climb, we realized we wouldn’t make the Morguen Toole Co. hostel in Meyersdale before the kitchen closed, so we stopped in Rockwood to find food. Now, Rockwood is a very small town, and it was pretty much shut down at 8:30 on a Friday night; the only sign of life was coming from the VFW hall across the street from the trailhead. Russ must have been quite a sight to behold clad in black lycra and a balaclava hat when he walked in there; once they got over their initial shock and realized he wasn’t there to rob the joint, they told him the only open place in town stopped serving food in 15 minutes.

The end of Day 1

The reaction Russ got at the VFW paled in comparison to the group of us walking into Rock City Cafe.  It was a small, one-room bar completely filled with, um, good ole boys. By that time, we had literally 2 minutes to order, so Paul ordered two of everything. Russ was in bad shape and the fried food which was touted as “the best wings on Main Street” did him no good at all. Right before our eyes, he went from chilly and hungry to hypothermic and really sick – which included a trip to the bathroom to throw up. So for the third time that day, we entered problem solving mode. The waitress brought us a phone book and phone (since there was no cell service in Rockwood), but the lone taxi service didn’t answer. We considered duct-taping him to his bike and towing him 12 miles to Meyersdale, but thankfully Terry, the very kind owner of the bar, came to our rescue and drove Russ and his bike to the hotel.  Russ still won’t talk about what he had to pay Terry for providing this service but he will confirm that Terry probably saved his life that night.

Crossing the Eastern Divide

As the bone chilling sleet descended on us, that was the longest 12 miles I have EVER ridden.

Morguen Toole Co. hostel was awesome: they kept the bar open for us to get warm blueberry pie and a much needed beer when we rolled in at 11:30pm. We all stayed in one big hostel room; except for Barry, he slept alone in a room with his dirty laundry. All of our dirty laundry, actually. It was very … pungent …. in there. The hostel used to be a morgue; there were skeletons and old tools decorating the halls and we had the entire building to ourselves the next morning. Barry took advantage of that by unlocking the door to the hostel (the entire hostel, not just his hostel room), in, um, extremely casual clothing (fyi, he’s a boxer man).  This unusual behavior by Barry would come back to haunt me again later in the trip.
Day 2 (95 miles): “My brain works better’n yours does.”
Saturday was a short day at 94 miles, and those 30-something missing miles made a huge different in how the day went. We could actually stop to take pictures!
We had a B&B reserved in Hancock, another very small town (the entire building to ourselves, again… all the sane people must have ridden the GAP/C&O trails earlier in the year). Like the night before, we had to rush to get dinner before the restaurant closed. The employees at the Park N Dine were very nice, even though we walked in 10 minutes before they closed and thankfully we were the only customers in the place so we could fully enjoy the beers that we brought in with us. Our sweet waitress had the best line of the day. After helping Barry locate his credit card (he was sitting on it) she said, “My brain works better’n yours does.”  This was a valid point at the time and one which Barry was never able to refute.

See if you can figure out the hidden meaning in this one

Day 3 (125 miles): “Barry, if you start singing that monkey song now, I swear I will cut you”
Michelle left us on Sunday morning to return to real life helping America prepare for the Turkey Day festivities; Dee, Russ and I were riding 70 miles to Point of Rocks, where Russ’ wife, Debbie, would pick us up.  Whereas, Barry and Paul were riding all the way into Georgetown (125 miles).

Kissing ass at the start of the C&O Canal in Cumberland

As we headed off a drizzly rain began.  By midday, we were tired and stopped for a delicious lunch at the Sweet Shop in Shepherdstown. Unfortunately, upon emerging from our lunch pitstop, Barry realized that he had yet another tire issue as this time his front tire was flat.  Russ and Paul leapt into action and put a tube in his tire, while poor, sweet Dee worked on her dance moves in an attempt to keep her promise to herself for the weekend.  Let’s just say the locals were not impressed and she fell short in her attempt :(

Shortly after lunch, three straight days on the trail started to take a toll on our minds and bodies and we found the best way to make the miles go faster was in deep, philosophical discussion. Barry tried to do a training exercise he learned the week before at work: “OK everyone, close your eyes and relax your entire body.” “Uh, Barry? We’re kinda riding our bikes right now.” “Huh, this may be harder than I thought.” Barry also brought up some YouTube video about a baby monkey riding on a pig and I thought if that ridiculous song got stuck in my head I was going to completely lose it and I secretly wished I had ridden home with Michelle instead of still pedaling along this trail.  But pedal on we did, and on and on….

Just before Harper’s Ferry, we found someone’s phone on the trail and trying to find the owner helped pass a few more miles.  Then as nighttime approached I relished the fact that I was near my finishing point and would soon be home relaxing in a warm bath with a glass of wine in hand.

By Point of Rocks I was D-O-N-E and thankfully our savior Debbie was there to rescue us!  We said our goodbyes to Paul and Barry who stole all of our remaining water and hotties handwarmers and headed off into the descending night.  This is where the boys take over the story and it gets kinda weird…

The first two hours went by smoothly as we ramped up our pace a bit and worked together in an effort to get back home to Washington.  In fact, just past White’s Ferry with 30 miles to go we stopped to eat and felt so good that we called our ladyfriends, Cathy and Charlotte, and suggested that they meet up at Chadwicks tavern in Georgetown @ 8:45 to celebrate this accomplishment and welcome home the conquering heroes.  At this point, we knew we were going to finish and were experiencing the thrill of victory.  However, this trip that had been full of challenges throughout and had one last surprise for us – the agony of defeat.
Barry put Paul on a towline so that they could make better time in the home stretch and make our Nachos n Beer appointment at Chadwicks.  After stopping to hook up our last working light battery between us, we really picked up the pace and that was precisely when the angry beaver appeared.  It wasn’t the first time on this trip there had been run ins with angry beavers.  In this instance, we were at milepost 10, with less than an hour left to ride, and an angry beaver reared its ugly head and scampered across the trail in front of us like a black cat in the night.  Less than a mile later on a slight downhill we got tangled up with the towrope- Paul let go, Barry slowed to a stop- and we both looked down defeated as Barry’s derailleur had been ripped clean off his bicycle.  That meant a laborious 8 mile tow of Barry into Georgetown by Paul in order to finish.
We all knew this trip could only end one way – with a disaster – much like it had begun.  Nevertheless, we made it past the Park Service Police that were in search of a missing person and surprisingly not at all interested in our angry beaver sighting and we finally finished the ride some 350 miles later as evident by our Milepost 1 photo before heading down the hill to Chadwicks in search of Nachos n Beer.
Perhaps the moral of the story is to always treat angry beavers with respect, but I like to think it should be about getting out on your bike and riding with good friends no matter what obstacles present themselves.