John and Carole’s Excellent 2004 Towpath Adventure - Throwback Tour Day: 2004 C&O Canal Anniversary Through Ride - CycleBlaze

November 6, 1997

John and Carole’s Excellent 2004 Towpath Adventure

Wild Key West Weekend, or Bike a Bumpy Path?

For our tenth anniversary in 1999, Carole and I had planned on going to Miami and Key West, Florida, tagging on to a business trip I had scheduled to Ft. Lauderdale. We would do some snorkeling, sip margaritas on the beach, and stay in a luxury hotel.

At the last minute my trip to Ft. Lauderdale was cancelled, so we decided to do the next best thing: bicycle the C&O Canal Towpath from Cumberland, Maryland to Georgetown in Washington DC. I had always wanted to do that ride, and Carole agreed to go for it. After all, what could be more romantic than sitting on a hard bicycle seat over 184 miles of bumpy dirt trails?

I do a lot of cycling, including multi-day touring, although usually on roads. Carole is a runner and in very good shape from running 5K and 10K races. However, her cycling has been limited to rides we’ve done together or with our daughter on local rail trails– not a lot of long rides or miles on rough surfaces. Her longest previous ride had been 37 miles that we did on the Rock Creek and Capital Crescent trails.

On road tours I ride a Trek 520 with front panniers, but for the Towpath I used my Schwinn hybrid bike with a rear rack.  The Schwinn has 35mm tires – a little narrow for the Towpath, but usable. I put a rear rack on my son’s Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike for Carole. I bought Traverse panniers from REI, and showed Carole how much room she would have for her stuff. For a "normal" three-day weekend, 2500 cubic inches might hold most of her shampoos but that would be about it. However, she rose to the challenge (once she realized I wasn’t kidding), and I gathered up spare tubes, some headlights, and tools and we were ready to roll.

I did some quick research on the web, and made hotel reservations for Cumberland, Hancock and Harper’s Ferry. The plan was to start in Cumberland, do about 60 miles each day and end up in Carderock, MD at milepost 10, where my friend Jim would pick us up.

Carole’s brother Ken drove us up to Cumberland on Thursday night, where we checked in to the Inn at Walnut Bottom, a bike-friendly place less than a mile from the Cumberland terminus of the Towpath. Update: It is now known as the Cumberland Inn & SpaWe bought him dinner at the Graetz bar around the corner and he took off –leaving us with nothing but our bikes and four panniers' worth of clothes and supplies.

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