Antietam Creek Campground to Turtle Run Creek Campground September 14 - We are nearing Washington DC, just two more nights on the road. We have been following the canal on one side of the tow path and the Potomac River on the other. The beginning of the C and O canal and Lock #1 are in the Georgetown section of DC, less than 70 miles away, Antietam Creek campground is at mile post 69. Our first destination this morning is Harper's Ferry. When we arrive about 8 miles down the road from Antietam we find that there is no way to take our bikes across the river to Harper's Ferry, so we lock them up and cross on a pedestrian walkway that is part of a rail bridge. There are actually two rail bridges crossing at this point. Harper's Ferry was a very interesting stop, lots of history, museums, shops and educational opportunities. There were a number of students there this day. I took particular interest in the John Brown museum, in fact Lynda, Braden, Roger and I toured the museum and I gained some new perspectives about John Brown. The museum took you through his life but focused mainly on his attack on the United States Arsenal at Harper's Ferry. Some view John Brown as a fanatic, some a hero, some a fanatical hero. To me he was a well intentioned individual but one who let his mission cloud his judgement regarding how to achieve his goal of abolishing slavery. Non-violent civil disobedience was not his style. We toured Harper's Ferry and I took some time to call back to KU and get some updates from Elizabeth. In the process I lost track of time and my fellow riders who were trying to call me but my voice mail box was full. While getting a quick lunch I finally got through to Braden who indicated the group was on the road on their way to White's Ferry. I am still riding well and was able to catch up to group in about a half hour or so. Braden had parked the support truck at White's Ferry so that was our interim destination as we were camping at a remote site about a mile from the truck. Roger and I ended up bombing in again and immediately went to the only cafe at White's Ferry for eats. White's Ferry is actually an operating ferry that crosses the Potomac over to Leesburg, VA. The cafe, Barron's, was pretty good and outside the cafe are flood markers that indicate the Potomac has flooded up to the bottom of the second story of the cafe. This day all was dry, the cafe cook and waitress indicated they had just moved here from Chicago to try there hand at running the place, they were doing a good job and we enjoyed chatting with them. From the cafe we went to the truck to get some food for later tonight and breakfast in the morning. We arrived at the campground to find it very primitive but nonetheless this is our last stop before we hit DC tomorrow. We all cooked out that evening, built a camp fire and reminisced about the ride, tomorrow we arrive at our final destination. Yess!
McCoy Ferry Campground to Antietam Creek September 13, 2009 - Roger, Lynda and I took off first, Braden drove the truck ahead to Antietam to secure a camp spot and then will ride back to us. The path became a little rougher than usual but still acceptable you just have to keep vigilant for anomalies in the pathway (pot holes and tree roots). Roger was quite happy as the sun was shining again. It was a beautiful morning and I am sure everyone spirits were up with gorgeous weather. Somewhere along the way I lost a bag as I had failed to secure one of my panniers properly. I noticed the missing item at one of the scenic locks and dam we stopped at. I decided to retrace my steps as we were only 3.7 miles from camp. Off I went back towards camp disappointed in myself for not closing up the pannier but fortunately I came around a bend about a 1/2 and back to a lock only to see a hiker looking at my bag as he reached to pick it up I called to him that it was mine. I got the bag thanked the hiker for noticing it and was back on the route quickly, the morning became beautiful again. We knew that about 10-11 miles out would be the only town (Williamsport) we could get food at for the day so we decided to stop there for brunch. We stopped at the National Park information center at Williamsport and looked around, saw a great old film made by Thomas Edison that showed footage of the canal in use. After the info center visit we had some trouble finding a place to eat but finally ended up at a Waffle House. After the Waffle House we headed back onto the route and met Braden on the edge of town at a really picturesque part of the canal. Braden told of the campground and his crash that day. Seems he had left the campground we would be camping at for the night, was a mile or so down the trail headed toward us, took his eyes off the road when he saw yet another camp site and in the process hit a tree root. Braden had some pretty good road rash on his elbow, knee and leg. Later that day we found the offending tree root and have a photograph of it. After hearing Braden's war story we continued on to Antietam at a really good pace. Roger and I pulled out ahead and occasionally violated the speed limit on the bike path-15 mph. On several stretches we were above 15 and closer to 20. Both of us were riding well this day and looking forward to getting to camp. We did stop however and wait for Braden and Lynda where we thought Braden may have wrecked before going on in to Antietam. By the way are in some really historic areas associated with the Civil War. At the battle of Antietam there were 26,000 casualties, lots of history here.
Paw Paw Campground near Paw Paw, West Virginia to McCoy Ferry September 12, 2009 - Interesting day, broke camp and made sure we had lights available for going through the Paw Paw tunnel. The Paw Paw Tunnel is one of the major features of the C and O canal. It was built as a bypass to some very difficult terrain along the Potomac River in Paw Paw Bends. Decision was made to proceed with the tunnel in Feb. 1836, with completion date set for July 1838. In actual fact, tunnel was not completed until 1850. The tunnel is 3,000+ feet in length. We walked our bikes through the tunnel. The canal is only a foot or two wider in most places (particularly at the locks and aqueducts) than the barges that used it. I read a story about two barges meeting in the tunnel, one going down stream, the other upstream. A standoff ensued and the matter was resolved when one of the barge operators lit a fire and let prevailing winds smoke the other barge out of the tunnel. I guess the stand-off lasted two days. Back in the day the canal carried coal down stream from western Pennsylvania to the east coast and various manufactured goods to west (upstream) to Pittsburgh and the Ohio River Valley.
Somewhere along the way there is a 21 mile paved bike path, the Western Maryland, which parallels the towpath so we rode on it to get a little relief from the towpath's occasional tree root or pothole. By early afternoon we arrived in Hancock, MD. Don and Mary headed to the bike shop to have Don's rear hub checked. We all ended up at Weavers http://www.weaversrestaurant.com/ for yet another great meal, this place is on my Top Ten list for good eats as well. I bought two of Weaver's chocolate eclairs for the road after having the 1/2 chicken dinner (it was all chicken but only half of one) and of course coconut creme pie. Mary, Don and I got to the library but only had a brief time to use the public computers. I had serious business to do regarding my fantasy football teams. From Hancock we all headed to McCoy Ferry campground for the evening. We are about 3 days from reaching our destination-Washington D.C.. The last several hundred miles have been on the Great Allegheny Passageway bike trail and now on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath bike trail. All is well. Will update blog at next opportunity.
Cumberland, MD to Paw Paw, West Virginia September 11, 2009 - Yahoo, leaving Cumberland, not a bad place but I am tired and as we enter the C and O Canal Towpath we will be riding along the Potomac, getting closer to Washington DC and perhaps moving away from the train and truck traffic into a more quiet environment. Had a bagel and oatmeal for breakfast at the camp. It is 184.5 miles to DC from here but our first stop will be at the Paw Paw Campground about a mile from Paw Paw, WVA and .6 miles from the Paw Paw Tunnel. For those unfamiliar with the C an O Canal it operated in mid 1800's until trains and finally a flood lead to the demise of the canal in 1924. http://bikewashington.org/canal/ Prior to reaching the C and O we had heard a lot of stories from bikers and others that the trail would be nasty and rough with potholes and tree roots all the way to DC. We had found the Allegheny's relatively smooth compacted limestone quite satisfactory and did not know what to expect on the C and O after all of these comments. I guess after 3900 miles we have become tough the C and O was a bit rougher but my bike rode well on the surface, there were pot holes and tree roots but overall the C and O was not too bad. If you were riding an unloaded cross or mountain bike with minimal suspension it was be even better but not necessary. I liked the C and O almost all 184.5 miles of it. Don't recall the mileage to Paw Paw but Roger and I get there first around 1 p.m. and went into Paw Paw for some groceries and to check out the town, Braden and Lynda arrived a little later and we ate at Grandma's Place in Paw Paw. Our waitress at first was quiet but warmed up to us and sort of left us sad, she was young sort of joked about the town not much going on etc. but sounded like she was sort of stuck there for whatever reason. We headed back to camp only a mile away. Lynda and Braden were going to go over to the Paw Paw Tunnel and do some exploring. I laid down in my tent around 3:30 or so and slept until 8:30 pm, got up sat around the campfire a bit and went back to bed, I must have really been tired from two nights of listening to the trains and trucks in Cumberland. Took a little razzing for my napping but no problem I felt much better and that night it was very quiet except for typical nocturnal animal noises, all was good and peaceful along the banks of the Potomac.
Rest Day in Cumberland, MD September 10, 2009 - Typically on a rest day it is nice to catch up by getting online. This is usually done on the laptop I have brought along or using a public computer at a library or similar community facility. I have been having issues with the laptop not connecting to a wireless networks, something to do with not acquiring an address. The lad from London had it working in Niagara but the laptop is having wireless issues. Too bad because all of Cumberland is served by Wi-Fi. The library is our best alternative but unfortunately we find it is ran by a rather rigid library staff. I burned my time on fantasy football about 10 minutes and getting a motel in Washington DC, about 50 minutes. Although there were unused computers the two ladies who appeared to be nice pleasant if not attractive librarians were unbending on the policy - you can only use the computer once a day for one hour. In order to work around this policy others in our group let me use some of their time so we could find inexpensive accommodations in DC and make our reservations. Those two ladies probably are not to blame perhaps the Library board set up this one hour per person per day rule after some computer hogs abused the previous policy....maybe I should call the Mayor and have a chat with him about this... Of course since Cumberland has the community Wi-Fi this policy may make sense in many cases, but for those of us on the road and starved for information it seems silly to let computers sit idle. I digress, We ate at Crabby Joe's down in the shopping and dining district and visited the local bike shop for a few small items probably tubes was on the list. The proprietor of bike shop said he could fix my computer and later that day I sat on a nice sofa in the loft above the bike shop catching up on email, if those librarians could see me now! We all headed back to camp, some did grocery shopping, cooked our evening meal at camp did some bike maintenance and sat around the campfire. Didn't sleep too good with train and truck noise during the night even my I-pod could not drown out the background noise.
Rockwood, PA to Cumberland, MD September 9, 2009 - Woke up to the sound of rain on the tent and left around 9:30 a.m. for Cumberland. The Husky Haven folks stopped by to see us off, the name of their camp comes from their love of Huskies, I believe they have a number of them. Today we will have completed the Allegheny Trail when we get to Cumberland and start the Chesapeake and Ohio Towpath which will take us to Washington DC. The Allegheny Passage is 134 miles from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland. At Cumberland we will get on the C and O Towpath and it will take us to Georgetown in Washington DC. The weather cleared somewhat but we haven't seen much sun as we head southward along the Casselman River. Our first stop of the day is at Meyersdale, there is a train depot museum there and some of our group took a brief tour. Roger and I, later Lynda went looking for breakfast/lunch/brunch and after debating about going downhill into town proceeded to one of the best diners of the entire ride, a place with a curious name the GI Day Room-Hot Roast Beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and egg noodles with coconut cream pie. Climbing up the hill to the trail didn't seem too bad but not a lot of fun after eating. Not too far down the road was the village of Deal and a crossing of the Eastern Continental Divide. The Eastern Continental Divide separates the waters flowing to the Atlantic from those flowing to the Gulf of Mexico. Braden had driven ahead to Cumberland and biked back to us just in time to meet us at the Eastern Continental Divide tunnel on the trail. As you might expect the ride east from the divide was downhill and thoroughly enjoyable. As an added feature we crossed the Mason Dixon Line at the Pennsylvania/Maryland border. Our consensus for today was that it was a day of tunnels and
bridges. As we glided into Cumberland I felt that this day was almost perfect, we had some sun, nice vistas, smooth trail and that nice down hill grade. I might mention that the beauty of rail lines is that they do not have much grade usually a max of 1% so they make excellent bike and hiking trails for those who don't like to climb a lot and that would be the category I fall into. We arrived in Cumberland and went to the Cumberland National Park info center for the C and Canal Towpath and after being fully informed proceeded downtown to eat at City Lights a semi upscale eating establishment-I had crab cakes. This was a place recommended by a gentleman I stopped on the street who turned out to be the Mayor of Cumberland. By the way as a politician he did, in all fairness, mention several other places as well. City Lights was good. It looked like it might rain and there were some pretty good storms in the area but we were spared and had a dry ride from downtown Cumberland over to the campground at the YMCA. It was free camping at the YMCA but it cost $20 a night for all of us, I guess the $20 was for use of the showers and pool, none of us used the basketball or racquetball courts. Since Roger and I are both members of the Y we thought we should not be charged but the staff there said they were giving us the best deal and it was but we still had questions about free camping. We stayed across the street from the Y and pitched my tent under the pavilion to avoid any more rain which we did get that evening in small amounts. We have had our bouts with noisy trains and the tracks here are only about 10 feet from our campground. Fortunately they don't blow their whistle at this location but they do have squeaky wheels and brakes.
Kentuck Campground to Rockwood, PA September 8, 2009 - OK, it is morning and we have to push our bikes down that nasty path to the Allegheny trail. We woke up to more rain and got a bit of a late start from Kentuck CG I believe it was around 9:30 a.m.. The .5 mile trek down to the trail turned out to be much better going down but the footing was tricky due to the rocks and gravel on the path. We pushed on to Rockwood and will camp at Husky Haven tonight which is a private camp but situated on the Allegheny Trail. The rain has subsided and it is a cloudy but pleasant day. The Allegheny trail has been really awesome and today is no exception. This particular area was a big coal mining region and you can still see coal deposits in the rock strata along the way. Around noon we reached Confluence, PA visited the local bike shop http://www.confluencecyclery.com/ and had lunch at the Sister's Cafe. At Confluence we know longer were biking along the "The Yock" but now the Casselman River which is known more for fly fishing and trout. On to Rockwood, arrived late in the day, Roger was waiting for us and we went over to the Husky Haven office and showers which are separated by a levee from the campsite. Husky Haven was nice they had a cell phone hot spot since cell service has not been available for some time and a PC for our use, they even had a bike wash. Roger and I showered and did some laundry at a combo Pizza and laundromat. After that I headed back to the Husky Haven offices to use the computer (fantasy football season is starting). By the time I headed to the campground it was pitch dark. My saving grace was the light from Don's campfire that helped guide me home. I had no headlight with me and had to walk to the bike a bit. Fortunately this was a journey of less than a mile from Rockwood back to the camp. A couple from Milwaukee we had met earlier joined us for awhile at the camp fire.
Cedar Creek Campground to Kentuck Campground at Ohiopyle, PA September 7, 2009 - We awoke to the pitter patter of rain. I for one did not mind the rain, after the previous day's difficulties it was nice to relax a bit. This relaxation carried on under a pavilion on the campground and there was some discussion of taking a rare rest day. We watched some riders participating in a Labor Day ride going up and down the trail with mud and rain spraying up their backs while we sipped coffee and made observations about the wisdom of riding today. Sometime around 11:30 a.m. the rain let up a bit and we headed for Ohiopyle in a light drizzle. After about 10 miles the rain stopped. It was a beautiful ride along the Youghiogheny [yaw-ki-GAY-nee] River. The locals just call the Yock, awkward name, pretty river with rapids and lots of kyakers. Toward the end of the day I got ahead of some of the group and started looking for our campground. I saw a path leading to a campground but it was called Kentuck and I didn't recall hearing anyone mention Kentuck campground, only Ohiopyle, so I headed into Ohiopyle which was not far down the trail. Ohiopyle is a scenic town and there was a nice information center there, the more I looked it appeared that there was no Ohiopyle Campground. I called Braden and told him I only saw a Kentuck Campground and nothing in Ohiopyle except B and B's, lodges, etc. He said Kentuck was the place and there was a steep climb to get to it. I believe he said "you might want to push your bike". I went back up the trail to Kentuck and cussed for the next 1/2 mile or so as I pushed my loaded bike up a very steep and gravely trail. Once I reached the Kentuck campground I indicated that coming up that trail was one of the stupidest things I had done in many years, I should have stayed on the trail in Ohiopyle and at one of the local lodges. I think most of us were not happy campers after that climb. We heard later that biking to the camp via the local roads was even worse and much longer. Despite the nasty climb the showers were good, I heated up some soup, ate, darkness soon fell and I called it a day.
Neville Island, PA to Cedar Creek Campground September 6, 2009 - The day started off fairly good with an excellent breakfast at the Islander Bar across the street from our motel. Our waitress was the cook as well and she did a great job on my usual - home fries, two up and sausage. Once underway things got very urban and this became a not so routine day. In very short order we were looking at the Pittsburgh skyline from an Ohio River bridge between Neville Island and Pittsburgh. We began our ride into Pittsburgh a little apprehensive in our ability to find fully connected bike paths. The information we were using indicated that some of our route would require several river crossings and one map indicated that we should shuttle our bikes about 9 miles down to where the Allegheny Passage was fully complete and connected. We scoffed at the idea of a shuttle and off we went into the bowels of Pittsburgh after deciding we would ad lib. Off we went into a few sketchy neighborhoods and finally down to the "rivah". Along the banks of the Ohio River we traveled past a prison, some industrial and warehouse areas. Several miles along the path the the landscape started changing and we came upon Heinz Field home of the Steelers, Super Bowl Champs, a new casino and some nice views of the Pittsburgh skyline. We had not seen much city since we left Buffalo, NY and Erie, PA, we were right in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. At the PNC Park, home of the not so successful Pirates we crossed the bridge into the heart of the city. We were running out of bike path and were now on city streets. We stopped at the info center where Don pulled off his pants to reveal his padded bike short liner to the attendant for some reason and had lunch at Wendy's where we heard that it was a good thing we are going to miss the upcoming G-8 summit. At this point we had sort of lost our way but had a general idea. The directions we received at the info center were not bike friendly and both Don and I took spills on a train or trolley track on some roadway that we should not have been on. Fortunately there were no major injuries I came out the worst with some road rash on my elbow and knee but I was more worried about the blow to my shoulder and head on the Jersey barrier I hit while going down. As it turned out my helmet did its job and the shoulder (same one I have had trouble with the past year) only became lightly bruised and the soreness went away after a week or so. The crash really ticked me off, it was unnecessary, we should not have taken the route the info center guy gave us. It was apparent we needed to cross the Ohio River again, which we did, over to the Dusquene Incline (Hot Metal Bridge I think). I read somewhere that Pittsburgh has around 455 bridges, must be some kind of record. We again picked up a bike path along the Monoghlia River which took us a few miles and ended. At this point we walked our bikes in gravel along a rail line to a large parking lot which lead to an entertainment and shopping area -Waterfront at Homestead. This was the site of an old steel mill. We negotiated around this area and decided to get on off of the bike path and onto a highway 837 I believe. At this point it was late in the day and we had only traveled about 20 miles. We took the busy highway 837 south into McKeesport and started looking for a motel. Our search was in vain so we decided to try to get back on a bike path and continue south. After a few dead ends we came upon some bikers who helped us get on the Allegheny Trail. After dodging all the broken connections of the trail system we had finally arrived at the trail. Although it was late we took off for Cedar Creek campground about 20 miles down the trail and viola! arrived at Cedar Creek about 6 pm, had a late supper and retired for the night. Long day-short mileage. http://www.atatrail.org/maps/map.cfm
Mercer, PA to Neville Island, PA September 5, 2009 - This morning we had another hill to start the day. Another fairly steep climb right up to a local restaurant for breakfast. We followed a designated Pennsylvania bike route (Route A) along some back roads out of Mercer heading south toward Pittsburgh. Outside of Mercer we passed some Amish farming areas, Braden stopped and bought some homemade cookies at one farm. We saw a number of very bucolic activities going on but none of us felt like we should impose by taking pictures. One memorable scene was a woman mowing with a horse drawn mower. Our route took us over to New Castle with a pretty good climb into town. We went through Beaver, Beaver Falls, Aliquippa and Coraopolis. This was a pretty scenic ride and we encountered several bridges and the Ohio River has we cycled south. As we rode along it was very apparent that we were moving from a largely rural area into a more industrialized and urban part of Pennsylvania. We had a huge meal at Anthony Jr.'s in Coraopolis. Anthony Jr.'s serves some big portions, Roger had a 16" Calzone that would feed a family, Don had a lasagna of almost equal proportion and consumed the entire thing. The waitress was astounded, claimed she had never seen anyone eat an entire lasagna order before. We waddled out of Anthony Jr.'s and crossed a bridge over to Neville Island for another motel stay. Some of the rooms were pretty wild, Don and Mary's had a jungle theme complete with a shower head embedded the trunk of a huge plastic elephant. My room was a nautical theme with glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. Neville Island is located in the Ohio River just north of Pittsburgh. The motel was pretty weird but worked out fine for us.
Meadville, PA to Mercer, PA September 4, 2009 - We departed from the Mayor Lord's House B & B this morning and immediately were greeted with a steep climb out of Meadville. The weather very nice and sunny but not hot, somewhere in the 60's or 70's. Today was a good ride and pretty much a straight shot from Meadville. We ate at a little roadside diner and both Roger and I were pleased to hear that the special for the day was meat loaf and mashed potatoes. Coconut cream pie was also available much to our delight. The biggest challenge today was trying to find a campsite or lodging. As we neared Mercer it became apparent that camping was not readily available. As it turned out we checked out a couple of motels and settled one that was best located for dinner and breakfast. We all did some bike maintenance and gear organizing in the parking lot. Had a nice evening meal at an Italian restaurant not far from the motel.