Maryland - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

May 3, 2014


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DID YOU KNOW that Maryland is about the size of Belgium? No, nor did I. But I spotted the link when I arrived in that same sort of torrential rain that falls on sad-faced housewives in the street markets of Aalst and Kortrijk. It rained. It poured on discount tyre shops and supermakets with primary-colour billboards and portly men who wished they'd parked nearer the door. It rained so much up and down the eastern side of the country that 30 people died. And it rained so long that it piqued my sense of injustice.

Only for the sun to come out and make everybody sweat and grumble.

Anyway, about Maryland... It was named after Queen Henrietta Maria. I feel I ought to know who she was. To be honest, I rather think that you should too.

I told you that they have a canal here called the Chesapeake and Ohio. It sounds like an old vaudeville act, a ventriloquist and his varnished dummy. Or perhaps a pair of florid and portly farmers prodding at cattle and bitching about feed prices and scratching their heads through sun-bleached caps. Every cyclist for hours around knows it for what it is, though, because the Chesapeake and Ohio provides an escape from Washington without having to sweat through the Adirondacks.

It was Iain Cullen who put me on to it, in one of his own journals. He was in no shape to struggle with three-dimensional countryside. I don't know, yet, whether I am either. But given an easy way out, I'll take it. On top of which, I'm anxious not to repeat the route of the Transam. It was wonderful but there are other ways, flatter ways, and America is too large a country to take the same route twice.

The Chesapeake and Ohio runs for 298km on the edge of the Potomac river, built to flare and then die as railways and roads opened in competition. It was going to be turned into a busy road, draining the water and tipping in rubble and tar. Then an owl-wise judge called William Douglas got cross and campaigned to save it for hikers and cyclists.

And so now I, and they, can bowl along with that smug satisfaction that comes so easily in the absence of effort. I can't wait.

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