Coming up short - My C&O and GAP Pandemic Tour - CycleBlaze

October 8, 2020

Coming up short

Cycling from Little Orleans to Cumberland

Sunrise view from the top of Town Hill
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I love sunrises. Those who know me see my oversharing of sunrises on the farm. Today's sunrise at Town Hill B&B was breathtaking. There is something surreal about sipping coffee on a chilly morning on a mountaintop watching the sun crest the horizon.

Town Hill prepared a bountiful selection of breakfast foods. It was the perfect start to the day. I rode the shuttle 7 miles downhill to the Little Orleans trailhead. This section of the towpath is remote with few towns along the way but with an abundance of nature.

The approach to the Eastern portal of the Paw Paw Tunnel
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I cycled 15 miles to the rocky uneven trail at the Paw Paw Tunnel's eastern portal. This tunnel is legendary for C&O through cyclists. The trail and canal share the tunnel. It's a tedious or adventurous (depending how you look at it) passage through the dark tunnel on an uneven stone and gravel surface with only a wooden railing separating you from the dark cold canal waters. 

A hint of Autumn color approaching Oldtown
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Oldtown is the only option for food between Paw Paw and Cumberland. My touring companions and I opted to make it a stop. The Schoolhouse Kitchen is the cafeteria of an abandoned 1960s era school. The food is basic. Today, the service was beyond slow. I so wanted to help the cook in the kitchen.

Running late due to the long lunch, I stepped up the pace with my companions. Our destination for the day was Frostburg. I was rolling at a good pace when I felt and heard the thump and bump hated by all cyclists. I had a flat, not just a flat but a rear tire flat. As Ralphie in The Christmas Story would say, "Oh fudge!". 

My pal Kevin and I repaired it in short order, well short order for the two of us. A cyclist from Tajikistan was cycling along with us since Oldtown. He insisted on staying with us and was fascinated with our feat.  The Cumberland Express train started rolling the 10 miles to Cumberland. I arrived behind schedule and frustrated.

184.5 miles down. Cycled the complete length of the C&O canal Trail.
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I finished the 184.5 miles of the C&O with the ceremonial photo at the end of the trail milepost. Sitting outside the Cumberland Trail Connection bike shop, I decided to spend the night in Cumberland and tackle the 16 mile climb fresh in the morning. My pal Kevin graciously opted to stay with me. 

If only every ride water break would look like this!
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Coming up short. I chose that for the title of today's post. Over the past few days I was seriously questioning my ability to cycle up the steep grade into Frostburg after 45 towpath rock, stone, roots, and gravel miles and the 16 mile climb to the Frostburg Trailhead with 45 pounds in my panniers.

I made the decision to take a shuttle from Cumberland to Frostburg, something I am disappointed in doing. Unable to schedule the shuttle, I am spending the night in Cumberland. 

I know my companions felt a sense of duty to stay with me. I insisted they cycle on the Frostburg. I have toured this trail solo and am completely comfortable with cycling the climb tomorrow morning with Kevin. We will meet our companions somewhere along the trail. 

To say I am unhappy with this decision is an understatement. I let folks down, people who were touring with me. It might be part of aging. It might  be part of being in the funk most of the year. It's probably more about not cycling the miles I needed to prepare for the tour. Tomorrow will be another day. 

Today's C&O and GAP Trivia

The Paw Paw Tunnel is about .6 mile long and is constructed of almost 6 million bricks. It cut 6 miles off the length of the Canal. The alternative to building the Tunnel was to make the Canal follow two of the Paw Paw Bends, a twisting 6-mile long section of the Potomac River. The Tunnel was chosen as the better option, which was the optimal choice for today’s park visitors.

Source: 5 Things you may not know about the Paw Paw Tunnel

Today's ride: 45 miles (72 km)
Total: 203 miles (327 km)

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Paul MulveyTom - don't beat yourself up about taking the shuttle. I used to always like to ride every hill and didn't consider I did the tour unless I climbed the hill on my bike. I just completed my journal on my "Backyard Tour" around NW Georgia and, well, I walked 1.5 hills this trip. Oh, yeah, and then there was the climb up to Myrtle Hill cemetery - add another to that number. Now, I don't worry about it. Look at what you're doing - you just completed all those miles from Georgetown and enjoying the adventure. Keep going, you!
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