More mud - Two Far 2016 - Florida to Ontario: A Round Trip - CycleBlaze

July 6, 2016

More mud

Last night we met some bike riders who had come down from Cumberland to Hancock while we were coming up from Sharpsville to Hancock. They were extremely muddy and very tired when they arrived. Today our roles were reversed - we were heading up to Cumberland and they were heading down to Harpers Ferry.

For the first dozen miles we were on the paved Maryland rail trail. With a creamy surface like that we were able to make good time. In fact we actually managed to pass someone!

These cats are the guardians of the Washington rail trail. No mouse shall pass these gates.
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Rare opportunity to pass someone.
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Not to brag, but we have actually been able to pass lots of others on the trail as well.

We were faster than a fuzzy wuzzy caterpillar
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We were faster than a snake. In his defense, he had no legs.
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We sped past a mole.
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When we got to the unpaved C&O canal Viktoriya was worried that it would still be muddy. Alain patiently explained that since it had not rained the day before the path would be drying out and would become less and less muddy as the day went by. It's fair to say that his knowledge of the hydrological properties of trails is surpassed only by his knowledge of Eastern Seaboard crops.

C&O canal trail in the late afternoon after drying out.
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The trail was a bit treacherous in places and both tandems took a spill. Team S had the good sense to pick a dry section of the trail, team A opted to come to rest in a mud puddle.

Kerry's sympathetic response took the sting out of our fall.
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Although the fall was painless it turns out we had knocked out the bolt holding our bike rack and fender. As a result the fender was sitting very close to the tire and as mud was thrown up it got stuck between the tire and the fender. It took us a few miles to figure this out and MacGyver a solution. Luckily Kerry had an extra nut and bolt that we were able to use to attach the fender.

We saw both raspberries (yummy) and what Russians call wolf berries along the trail.

Wolf berries. Don't wolf these down, they should not be eaten.
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A highlight of the day was passing through the Pawpaw tunnel. The tunnel is just wide enough for a canal boat and a mule path. Today there is a fence along the side of the mule path to keep cyclists and pedestrians from falling into the canal. I wonder what the path was like when mules were working - it seems unlikely that mules had a union to fight for work place safety.

Entering the Pawpaw tunnel.
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The tunnel is damp and the mule path inside the tunnel has an uneven surface. It would be virtually impossible to ride a bike through the tunnel, so we walked. Our bike light runs off of a hub generator so we had to walk at a brisk pace to provide enough light to see in the tunnel. Near the far end of the tunnel we passed an Amish family walking in the opposite direction carrying only a single dim light. After we exited we could hear the family singing in the dark, enjoying the tunnel's acoustics.

The canal company had intended to complete the tunnel in 2 years but it took 14 years to complete. That greatly shortened to operational lifespan of the canal before the rival railroads put the canal out of business.

Another highlight of our day was meeting an extraordinary young woman named Maggie who was biking all the way from Pittsburgh to Washington with her Mom. They were in the middle of a 60 mile day when we met them. Maggie did not seem concerned with the prospect of a very long day on the trail. She did ask if we had encountered any snakes - she had already met up with 4 snakes and was not interested in adding to that number.

Riding on the trail in the mud was pretty stressful. You have to concentrate all of the time to make sure you take a good line through the mud and avoid the most treacherous sections. Seeing someone so young rise to the challenge certainly helped put the difficulty into perspective.

A very adventurous girl named Maggie.
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While the humans were chatting the bike birdies got to know each other.
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By the time we arrived in Cumberland the bike shop at the end of the C&O trail was getting ready to close. They were nice enough to sell us an extra-long bolt at a very reasonable price to solve out bike rack / fender attachment problem and even nicer to stay late to let us wash our bikes with their hose and brushes. We highly recommend the Cumberland Trail Connection bike shop.

Great bike shop if you ever find yourself in Cumberland MD.
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Once our bikes were clean the only unfinished business was to find our hotel. And to eat. A lot. And to eat some more (for dessert). And to do some laundry. And to do this blog. Actually, it's looking like we might get a late start tomorrow...

While we were cleaning the tandems another tandem couple wandered by. They also ride a Comotion speedster. We ran into them again at dinner and had an interesting conversation. Martin enjoys going down hills as fast as possible - we prefer a more cautious approach and go downhill much more slowly. They also enjoy sailing ships, even in 25 foot seas. Compared to that kind of excitement riding a bike down a hill must seem pretty tame.

Comotion Speedster couples.
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