It's like I'm riding with a motor - Can I Join You? - CycleBlaze

September 27, 2016

It's like I'm riding with a motor

When we checked in to Morguen Toole last night, we purchased the breakfast package which is served at the Trailside café at the top of the hill. We figured this would be a better option for us than getting some gas-station convenience store pastry. So we rode the 3/4 mile hill to the top and had omelets, coffee, orange juice, and fruit cups. We were not the only ones there at 7:50 this morning, and we chat with two other cycle tourists at another table. They are heading northbound, so we give them insight into their travel plans and what the see, and they share their experiences getting caught in the downpour on their way into town last night (Kath and I were at dinner during the downpour). The chef who prepares the meal is 88, and a grandmother something like 9 times over. She shares her story about living and growing up in Meyersdale, brings out pictures of her children, grandchild, and tells us all about their lives and what they do. With all the conversation this morning I find it's so refreshing to have an actual discussion with someone and not have to get it in 140-character snippets on Twitter.

With bellies full we're fueled up and walk across the street to the train, and then almost immediately roll across the Bollman bridge on the way out of town.

Bollman bridge
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The trail drains well, but there are still some wet spots this morning left over from the previous night's downpour. Where yesterday Kath enjoyed an "assist" riding up the trail, today she's all about completing the entire day under her own power. She's found her groove and the excitement. And this day has probably some of the most sights on the trip - The windmills, the Eastern Continental Divide, the Big Savage Tunnel, multiple viaducts, a view of the valley, the Mason Dixon line, and a 28-mile 2+% grade downhill into Cumberland. 

With the sound of birds and tires rolling on gravel, we slowly make our way to the Eastern Continental Divide. We pass by windmills and hear the low while they generate producing clean energy.

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The 80+ mile climb is over. From here, we fly downhill into Cumberland
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We run into another cyclist at the (literal) high point of the trip, the Eastern Continental Divide. he takes our picture and we, his. We have been climbing an average 1% grade all the way from Connellsville, about an 80-mile distance. From here, we roll away from the divide and on down the trail. We fly through the nearly mile-long Big Savage Tunnel and pop out the other side into a great view of the valley.

Big Savage Tunnel
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We run into another rider as we exit the tunnel. She's riding northbound and is touring all by herself. Oh, and she's 75 years old. This gives Kath a mental boost that if this other lady can do it, so can she. We chat for a few minutes about the trail and touring, she takes our picture, and then she's off on her tour and we on ours.

I would think all who tour the GAP stop and take photos of the valley from this point
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Another 2 or so miles down the trail we roll over the Mason Dixon line into the state of Maryland. Kath remarks on how quickly we ride - "It's like I'm riding with a motor!" she remarks. There are two ways to ride the GAP. Northbound, which means you have a 28-mile 2+% climb, and then an 80-mile 1% downhill, or southbound, like we did. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but having this fun ride where we "speed" along is a blast.

Don't know why I lifted the bike - did I really need to make the tour more challenging?
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By 11:00 we're in Frostburg. We lock our bikes at the trailhead and climb the steps into town in search of a coffee shop. Since it's a college town, we find an independent shop where we sit in the sun and warm ourselves with coffee and pastry. This is new to me since I normally push for the longer miles and will often grab a bar and a 5-minute stop. Traveling with another allowed me to slow down my goal-oriented nature and enjoy something new about the tour. Relax, have a coffee, and enjoy the stop.

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We continue to fly down the hill into Cumberland. It takes us almost exactly 60 minutes to roll into Cumberland, which is probably the fastest average speed Kath has ever recorded, tour or not. We roll past the canal place and the National Park museum for the C&O canal, and then to a great sandwich shop around the corner. 

The end of the GAP. 150 miles. Now to score some lunch...
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The remainder of the day sees us checking into the Fairfield in the heart of Cumberland, showering, and then walking around the downtown. There's a great pedestrian mall, although sad to see it under-utilized in terms of shops and occupancy. I like downtowns, and find it depressing how so much commerce has moved away from downtowns and into suburbs. But that's me. We did find some art alliances and galleries and walked through, although there's not much to carry on a bike from an art gallery. So we dine on the pedestrian mall to support the local economy.

Kath showing off her "Ride of my Life" GAP T-shirt and the end-of-the-line celebration dinner.
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Tomorrow we catch the train to Washington DC

Today's ride: 35 miles (56 km)
Total: 162 miles (261 km)

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