Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Idea of Vacation: The GAP and C&O - Days 5 & 6

The last installment of my biking adventures!

My Idea of Vacation: The GAP and C&O - Day Five
Date: Wednesday, May 30
Departed from: Cacapon Junction Hiker/Biker Campsite, milemarker 134 of C&O
Camped out: Horseshoe Bend Hiker/Biker Campsite, milemarker 80 of C&O
Total distance biked: 54 miles

I left my campsite and a few miles later I found myself in Hancock, MD. Along the C&O there are not many easily accessible towns (most had you going off the trail a little too far for my liking, and places like Harpers Ferry you had to dismount and leave your bike and gear on the other side of the Potomac - again, not to my liking), so an easy exit from the trail with a great bike shop right there was totally awesome. There was an outlet outside, so I juiced up my phone and called my dad and work to let them know I was alive. I bought and downed a bottle of Powerade, refilled my tires, and talked a couple guys from Cleveland who were also making the trek from Pittsburgh to DC.

Once I was back on the trail, several obstacles, in the form of fallen trees, were in my way. The storm the evening and night before had been pretty bad, and by the time I was on the trail, the tractors and trailkeepers hadn't been by to clear away the mess. The first fallen tree was a doozy. It looked like several trees because of the immense branches, so I had to unpack everything from the back of my bike (I'm kinda strong, but not strong enough to lift what amounted to an 80-pound bike over quite the large obstacle) and carry it over piece by piece. When I was done, I thought, "Yes! That's done! Onward!" Of course, about a mile down, there was another fallen tree. This one I burrowed a hole big enough to fit through with my bike, but it left me a bit scratched up. Whatever. Moving on. Oh, wait, no. There was still one more fallen tree to get around, and this one I ended up clearing off the trail mostly  by myself, until I had enough space to push my bike through. By the time I had cleared the three miles where these trees had fallen, I was filthy, a little bloodied, and exhausted.

At the bike shop, I had checked the weather and it called for mostly clear skies and only a ten percent chance of rain, so I told myself to bike until at least 5 p.m. and then determine where I'd sleep once I hit that point. I'd intended to stay around milemarker 105, but ended up going an extra 25 miles to milemarker 80. This included a detour off the trail throughout some farmtown in the middle-of-nowhere Maryland, but it was paved roads and only a few excruciating hills. By the time I was back on the trail proper, I needed to rest and wound up at the next available campsite.

As it turned out, that would be my last night sleeping outside in a tent for the trip.

Things I saw along the way - Day Five:

This is not what you want to see while you're making good time.

Bike shop in Hancock, Maryland. This is where I got my weather news.

Oh, um. This is not good.

Ok, um. Not as devastating as the tree before it, but still - UGH.

Getting under 100 miles felt like - well, getting under 100 miles! Felt great to know I was within reach.

First detour on the trail. For about ten miles before I hit this, many walkers and joggers stopped to warn me of its existence. 

Though there were some annoying hills and some slightly terrifying people in trucks passing me at very fast speeds, it was lovely to be on a paved road after the bumpiness of the C&O.

After moving the entire forest off the trail, I treated myself to an appetizer of white rice before my main course of kluski noodles. I literally inhaled this. Probably the hungriest I was on the whole trail.

I took this before the THIRD tree I had to maneuver around (that is, the tree I cleared from the trail all by myself). Dirty, scratched, exhausted, and a little bloody. Felt great. (Honestly, sometimes getting mucked and beat up is good for you.)

My Idea of Vacation: The GAP and C&O - Day Six
Date: Thursday, May 31
Departed from: Horseshoe Bend Hiker/Biker Campsite, milemarker 80 of C&O
Arrived at: Georgetown, Washington D.C., milemarker 0 of C&O
Total distance biked: 80 miles

So, this was kind of a crazy undertaking, and one I won't do again too soon, but I woke up on Thursday morning knowing that the forecast called for a picture-perfect day. It was going to be the coolest day I'd had on the trip (75 instead of 85 or above, which it had been averaging) and there was very little humidity. I also knew that the next day called for severe thunderstorms, and the prospect of finishing the trip in the rain and on a mucky mucky trail was not appealing. After about twenty miles, I called my friend Rob, who I'd be staying with in DC and make sure it was OK to show up a day early. He said yes, so I readied myself for the longest day of riding I've ever undertaken. 

Eighty miles separated me from re-entering civilization, but it would not be easy. I nearly overdosed on Aleve (not reading the directions, I exceeded the recommended intake of three capsules in my first dosage alone), rode through fifteen miles of mudpits (which started to get seriously frustrating and I had to calm myself down a few times before completely losing it), and about twelve miles outside of DC had to deal with another annoying detour. This time, I had to unpack and repack TWICE to carry my bike and all my gear up and down two flights of stairs. 

I listened to some of my favorite albums to keep me motivated (Get Up Kids, Bloc Party, Oasis (Be Here Now, with all its coke-fueled guitar solos), and Japandroids) and got into Georgetown around 6 p.m. When Rob found me I was covered in dirt from the waist down, disoriented, and braindead (basically). We found a place on the river to have a couple beers and a snack and caught up on things and life and stuff. There was a luxurious yacht docked right across from us playing what had to be a '90s Sirius radio station, which treated us to Third Eye Blind, Incubus, Nirvana, and other such gems.

Sitting there, finally dismounted with a delicious beer in hand, I still couldn't believe I had done it. I rode a bicycle from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. 

Things I saw along the way - Day Six:

Family of turtles. There were so many turtles in this pond/swamp.

During the last forty miles or so, I needed the classics to get me through.

The mighty Potomac.

Hey! It's another detour. But this one was total bullshit. Twelve miles out and I had to take everything off my bike, walk it all up two flights of stairs for a temporary mile-and-a-half trail and then everything off again and everything down two flights of stairs. I wanted to cry. But, I didn't. Because...

...with ten miles to go, and the last for songs of the new Japandroids album on repeat, and I was determined.

And determination got me Yuengling harbor-side with a yacht blasting '90s music. Thank. Goodness.
The end.

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