Monthly Archives: August 2017

Penultimate Day of my CO GAP Bike Tour


GAP Trail Day Six

 

This was my Penultimate Day of my CO GAP Bike Tour.

Day Six Start Rockwood Great Allegheny Trail

Big Mileage Day

When I had looked over the daily mileage, it looked like I was going to bike 60 plus miles on the last day into Pittsburgh, from Connellsville to Pittsburgh, Mile 88 to Mile 150. That was a bunch of miles for my seventh day on the trail.

The Steelers were playing in  Pittsburgh that Sunday afternoon. My husband hates cities and Pittsburgh driving-the combination of mountains, tunnels and rivers does not make Pittsburg an easy driving city.

The original plan was to end at mile 88 and sleep in Connellsville. I decided to push on past that town to Mile 110 Smithton. This would make the last day in Pittsburgh much shorter.  It  would be tough to bike past my hotel-but oh well.  This would be mile 44 from Rockwood to Mile 110 in Smithton-big miles!

Smithton GAP Trail

This was Laurel Highlands Day! One of my favorite spots on the planet.

Heading on out the trail, it was another day of seeing almost no bikers in the first few miles. I knew that would change as I got to Ohiopyle State Park.

Casselman River

The Gap Trail follows the Casselman River as I biked toward Confluence,  very scenic views to see besides the green tunnel.

Casselman River

Confluence

I had never visited Confluence before. It was a quiet little town, very different than the rocking atmosphere found in Ohiopyle.

Leaving Confluence, I found Ohiopyle State Park begins right around Confluence. Then the steady stream of bikers began. You can rent bikes in probably six or seven bike locations in Ohiopyle. The stores must send them  all to the east, where the biker will be going on the slight uphill, meaning when they turn around, they can enjoy the slight downhill that I am enjoying.

Because I was born in 1966

 

Ohiopyle

Ohiopyle, my favorite trail town! It was packed, as to be expected on a Saturday.

 

Today I was dreaming of a hotdog for lunch. A chili cheese hotdog to be precise. I knew I could find it in Ohiopyle. While I would have loved to dine at the Falls City Pub for lunch, I knew the Falls Market was right off the trail, with good food and faster service than the pub.

 

It was not only a cheese hotdog, it had pulled pork instead of chili, and coleslaw on the top!

I had to take the obligatory picture of kayakers and rafters on the Yough as I biked over the river.

This Saturday was amazing. Nobody was biking on the western side going toward Connellsville. The few bikes I saw fell away very quickly in the distance.

Yough River Overlook

My favorite picture I took on the  entire trip, my sock monkey at the Yough Gorge overlook!

Connellsville

Mile 100! Less than 50 to go now!

I biked into Connelsville. We were staying at the Cobblestone Inn and Suite, a pricey hotel right on the trail. It’s brand new. It wasn’t a bad place to stay, the bed was very comfortable. The fixtures are brand new but very cheap, it’s not going to wear well. I wonder what the rooms will look like in one year.  There was also no light in the room other than a desk lamp on the desk. I had to take my bike into the hallway to check the air pressure.

Cobblestone Inn and Suites were very bike friendly I have to say. It was fine to take your bike in the room. Another biker had his dirty bike dripping in the lobby as he checked in.

Connelsville

The closer I am to finishing the daily miles the less pictures I take. It was cool to pass the 100 mile mark, but I was ready to be done with all these miles on the trail.

Smithton

I was happy to see my husband at the pavilion at Mile 108, not 110! It’s amazing what two less miles can do for your spirit.

Wow, tomorrow is my last day on the trail! I can’t wait to get going!

Day One C&O Towpath

Day Two C&O Towpath

Day Three C&O Towpath

Day Four Last Day on the C&O Towpath

Day Five Starting the Great Allegheny Passage Trail

Day Five of my CO GAP Bike Tour

Great Allegheny Passage Trail

The Start of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail

I slept horribly at the Fairfield  Inn and Suites but so did my husband so maybe it was just the mattress. I was concerned about the 24 mile uphill to the Eastern Continental Divide.

Great Allegheny Passage Trail

I exited the hotel. Humidity just slapped me in the face. Find Mile Zero and I’m off! 150 miles to go!

GAP Mile Zero

First two miles of  the Great Allegheny Passage Trail are flat. Yay, only 22 miles uphill!

 

Mile One Cumberland GAP

haze is real

Then the uphill begins.

It’s Not that Bad

The Railroad is not even 3% grade. As long as I biked beside the railroad  tracks it would be manageable. I thought about how far I have come. Great Allegheny Passage Trail A year ago, I would have been gasping in my granny gear, now I am pedaling along, in the middle gear, for 22 miles uphill! Who would have thought that?

Frostburg

Frostburg has a water fountain at the trail head.Hurray! I really didn’t want to ride up to the train depot although it was not very far up the hill.

Mile 5 GAP Trail

The trail seemed to get steeper past Frostburg. I just kept  up with the JRA ” just ride along” mantra. I played my music thru my little portable boombox and sang along.

Mason Dixon Line

I come to the Mason Dixon Line. The dividing line between Maryland and Pennsylvania, the symbolic divider of the North and South.

Big Savage Tunnel

 

Overlook at the Big Savage Tunnel. Overcast day, little views

I got to Big Savage Mountain Tunnel. It just seemed so “little” that  a train did cross through this tunnel!

It was foggy and cold. The cold and fog didn’t bother me, I just didn’t want a head on collision with bikers in the opposite direction. I had my bike light and small hand held light on. The tunnel is also lit.

Eastern Continental Divide

There is a slight last climb to the ECD of course. At least there are other bikers there to take my picture.

Eastern Continental Divide

I call to tell the husband I have made it to the ECD. He warns me of big thunderstorm heading my way. I check my phone. Yep, it looks like a big storm!

Somehow the storm goes around me. I’m stoked to be on a downslope now, and make one quick stop in Meyersdale for an ice cream sandwich.

before biking on to Rockwood. I’m a little leery of the “end of the day” flat tire, but I believe I’ve got the pebble out and flat tires should be a thing of the past.

Rockwood PA GAP TrailWhee! End of the first day on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail. Trail conditions are better on the GAP Trail.

Check out my previous day journal posts:

Day One C&O Towpath

Day Two C&O Towpath

Day Three C&O Towpath

Day Four Last Day on the C&O Towpath

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Day Four CO GAP Bike Tour

C&O Towpath Last Day

Last Day on the C&O Canal Towpath Trail

Day Four was my last day on the C&O Canal Towpath Trail.

My miles were shorter. I only had to go twenty four miles, from mile 160 to mile 184.5. I did not need to be in any hurry on this day.

Turtles

There was quite a bit of water in the canal. Turtles have become my new spirit animal. I just love to see the turtles sunning themselves on logs.  But the turtles were thwarting me. Every time I stopped for a photo op, they would slide off their log back into the water!

Campground and Water on the C&O Canal Trail

I wanted to mention the campgrounds and water available on the C&O Canal Trail. One great feature on the C&O Canal Towpath Trail are the free campgrounds, which are spaced out about every five miles. There is a port-a-potty and a water supply at each campground. There is a good sign that tells you how far to the next campground, which made it very easy to gauge whether I needed to refill on my water supply.

Campground Sign C&O Towpath

Huckleberry Hill C&O Towpath

Pump C&O Canal Towpath

 

Flat Number Three!

All was going well until around mile 173. My tire…was going flat. I stopped and pumped air. The gauge would not go above 40 PSI. I actually found the hole where the air was going out.

I did not want to change the tire. I put a plastic candy wrapper on the hole, then wrapped cloth athletic tape around it.  I biked a bit. This didn’t work. I was going to have to change the tire. On the trail.

Know how to change your tire. I have now changed my rear tire five times. It really hasn’t gotten that much easier. I can now get the flat tire off the rim much quicker.

If you are going on a bike tour, you need to know how to change a tire.

I got the tire off, and inner tube out. I knew where the hole was. Sitting on the side of the trail, I carefully looked inside the tire.  I inspected the entire outside tire. I knew where the hole was. But was the problem?

There, in a tread, was a little quartz pebble. Which I knew was the problem. This little quartz pebble was penetrating the inner tube. Since I had not removed the little pebble the day before, this was caused Flat #3.

Pebble removed. Inner tube installed. Now time to put wheel on bike and chain back on derailleur.

This took…quite some time. I had no cell phone signal on the trail and could not consult You Tube. I kept trying. I know it is very simple..but when you can’t get the chain on, and don’t know how to do it, and it’s 2 pm and hot and humid and sweat is pouring down your face,  it’s a big deal.

But I did it. It took me an hour to change the tire. (Which is not bad, my fastest time is 40 minutes in my driveway at home). I load the bike up with my stuff, and the rear wheel doesn’t move.

I still don’t have the rear axle aligned correctly. I take the pannier off the bike AGAIN, and fix this.

Mile 174 C&O Towpath

Now I can continue, my last ten miles on the C&O Trail!

I am so filthy. Triumphant but filthy.

It was cool, to see my first view of the mountains as I pedaled westward.

I’m so ready to be done. I’ve been dreaming about a gin and tonic for miles. I know the towpath trail comes out of the woods not far from mile 184.5. When  I see the iconic spires of Cumberland for the first time, I let out a WOOHOO! I am almost there. Almost done.

I have been less filthy finishing a 100 mile foot race and biking this section of trail. I am a mess.

A finish and straight off to the bike shop I go. My brakes have been messed up since Flat #2, meaning I haven’t had brakes that worked.  Flat #3 hasn’t changed that.  The Bike shop fixes my brakes-meaning they tell me I need new brake and install them.  I am good with that. Perhaps I will have a new bike by the end of this bike tour.

My gin and tonic taste amazing and we have oysters and crab cakes at The Crabby Pig in Cumberland. I have now completed the C&O Canal Trail, and it is on to the Great Allegheny Passage Trail in the morning!

Do you know how to change your flat with the kit you have available on your bike ride?

Day Three of my CO GAP Bike Tour

CO GAP Day Three

Williamsport Mile 100


 

I had a nice filling breakfast at the Waffle House. I lucked out leaving Williamsport on Wednesday. The Conococheague Aqueduct construction was beginning on Thursday! I avoided one detour.

C&O Canal Towpath

Today would be a shorter day, since I was going to be extracted at Little Orleans, Maryland, and avoid the Paw Paw tunnel detour. It was back to the green tunnel.

Fort Frederick Mile 112

I had planned on taking the Western Maryland Rail Trail. This asphalt trail runs parallel to the C&O Towpath Trail. The map was handy. I biked through the Fort, then took a left on Big Pool Road, and the Western Maryland Rail Trail would be down the road about a half mile.

I found it! It was a welcome change to get off the mud puddles of the C&O Towpath, and just cruise on asphalt. I didn’t have to watch out for mud, I could sit up, I could just cruise and go! It was a bit noisy, as much of it was along a highway.

Perhaps I missed some sites on the C&O Towpath, but I was happy to just make miles down the trail.

Back to the C&O Canal Towpath Trail

Flat Number Two, also at end of my day!

When I exited the Maryland Rail Trail back to C&O Canal Towpath, I literally had about one mile to go. I could tell I was getting a flat. I pumped some air into the tire and tried to ride a bit more. I got a little ways down the trail.  Then I believed I pushed the bike about a half mile to where my husband was waiting.  I had another flat, but I was going to deal with that once we got to Paw Paw, West Virginia, where the B&B was.

Simon

My husband had picked up Simon, who was from Wales, and biking westward through the US. My husband had warned him about the Paw Paw Tunnel detour and asked if Simon was in shape. Simon said “no, I am not!!” so my husband offered him a ride around the detour, since we were all heading that way!

WrenWood Inn B&B

I fixed my flat in the shade of the Wrenwood Inn B&B, while drinking a beer. Once that was finally done, we headed across the street to Ellie’s Ice Cream, to get a sub sandwich for dinner. We spent a relaxing evening with Simon and a few others, drinking wine and beer and chatting.

Wrenwood Inn B&B

Carol had a lovely breakfast for us in the morning. It was 930 am before I was off for the day, my latest start!

Paw Paw West Virginia

Paw Paw Tunnel

The Paw Paw Tunnel is closed for a scaling project. This is where they remove all the loose shale and rock so it doesn’t come down as a landslide, like this:

Here’s what the Paw Paw Tunnel looks like:

My husband extracted me at Little Orleans, Maryland, and I avoided the entire detour. Sometimes it’s good to fast forward through a section!

Day Two of my CO GAP Tour

C&O Towpath Canal Trail

Day Two on the C&O Canal Towpath Trail

After a good night sleep and buffet breakfast at the Clarion Hotel in Harpers Ferry, my husband drove me back to Brunswick, Maryland, to start out on Day Two on the C&O Canal Towpath Trail.

Went with the awesome socks for Day Two

Harpers Ferry

It was muggy to start.  It was just a short ride to Harpers Ferry, and the infamous stairs to the bridge. I say infamous because if you want to take your bike across the river to Harpers Ferry, you have to carry your bike up these stairs.

C&O Towpath Trail

We had dined in HF the night before, and my husband and I had toured HF on our honeymoon, I didn’t see any need for more time in the area.  Down the trail I go!

Harpers Ferry Lock C&O Towpath Trail

Harpers Ferry Lock

Since we weren’t meeting any friends for dinner, I didn’t have any time constraints, I was able to just bike along.

C&O Canal Towpath Trail

The C&O Canal Trail is really a green tunnel through here. I did listen to some podcasts.  There were NO bikers going west. In fact, I only saw 18 bikers, from Harpers Ferry to Williamsport. 14 of them looked like bike tours.

Snyder’s Landing

I stopped at Snyder’s Landing to have a bit of a lunch break, and found my painted rock.  Hager Rock C&O Canal TowpathIt was from a group called Hagers Rocks. I carried that rock and left it in Ohiopyle, PA.  I have only found a few rocks, but I always take a pic to post it in their FB group so the painter can see where their rock ended up!

Big Slackwater

This section of the C&O Canal Towpath Trail contains Big Slackwater. This was a 2012 restoration of a section that floods had wiped out, making a horrible five mile detour around. This was a nice pleasure to ride on. It was narrow, but there was nobody out on this fine day in August, giving me the trail to myself.

Mile 100

I guess it’s actually Mile 99.7 Cushwa Basin, where the Williamsport Visitor Center is located. It was closed today. Oh well. It’s close enough to call it 100 miles finished!

Day Two Wrap Up

Hot and muggy, but overcast so I was grateful for that. A very muddy day, I had to pour multiple bottles of water over my bike to get the worst of the mud off. I carried more calories today. I was happy to have my MP3 player with me today. If you want to bike alone, go the second week of August, 18 people between mile 55 and 100 on the C&O Canal Towpath Trail!

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Day One of my CO GAP Bike Tour

C&O GAP Bike Tour

Mile Zero

Mile Zero on the C&O Towpath

I had no problem finding mile zero. Spending the night at a friend’s house, I zipped down Rock Creek Parkway and nearly whizzed by the C&O Canal Sign. Then I knew to follow the signs to Thompson’s Boat Center. (TIP: watch the You Tube video the night before you need to find the way, it should be easy peasy then.)

 

It was a little aggravating to find a construction detour around Lock 3& 4, but I simply went around the block, biking on the sidewalk. It helped that it was only about 8 am and the businesses were not open in Georgetown.

Lots of noise as I made my way out of DC, planes, helicopters, cars. Many bikers heading into the city on their commute.

Mile Twelve

It got nice and quiet around mile 12, the trail must pull away from the roads.  There was no bikers on the towpath on this muggy Monday morning. This eight point buck barely looked up from his breakfast. I realized he had no natural predators in this part of the state.

This section of the towpath had what looked like working locks. These were interesting to see, my knowledge of working towpath locks have been pictures up until now.

Great Falls

The changing topography clued me in that we were getting into the Great Falls Area. Big rock formations along the canal. When I walked out to the Overlook, there was maybe six other people there. Another positive for starting my tour on a Monday.

Seneca Creek Aqueduct

There was lots of excitement around the Aqueduct due to kids gearing up to kayak and canoe in Seneca Creek.  There was still nobody on the towpath!

After the aqueduct here, the mud sections began. It was a bit difficult to maneuver  through the mud puddles. It wasn’t that I cared so much about being muddy, the mud slowed the bike down. Then sometimes the rear tire would slide about in the mud.

White’s Ferry

I didn’t carry enough calories on Day One.  I was happy to get to White’s Ferry and see they offered food! There was even a grill operating, but I was happy to get a Coke and candy bar to keep going down the trail.

Is it Mile 50- or Mile 55?

My husband and I  had a bit of a miscommunication. We both thought I was going to mile 50, to Brunswick. It turned out that Brunswick was Mile 55.  I was bonking by this time. My phone was down to a 10% signal, I wanted to be done, but…I had another four miles to ride.

The bike trail merges with a slight uphill dirt road by a camp ground…and I feel the tire go whoosh and now I have a flat. I keep biking. I see my happy husband and I tell him to take my picture, so I can take off this helmet and get some food and fix my tire.. Waah!

Day One Finish

I did perk up after this. I was just not happy with the flat tire at the end of the day!

I take the bike to the local bike shop, Three Points Cycle where Keith fixes my tire in no time, tells me my rear derailleur is bent, and we are able to get cleaned up to meet friends in Harpers  Ferry  to celebrate my first day on the trail.

Things I learned

I forgot bug spray and music on day one. Luckily, it was fine.

Remember to pack sandwich for the day. Carry enough calories for the day!

Keep the phone off to conserve battery. I carried a camera for pictures.

Personal Items for my CO GAP Bike Tour

Personal Items CO GAP 2017

 

This post I will discuss the personal items for my first bike tour. This is first aid,  nutrition, hydration, clothing.

First Aid

I’ve made a mini first aid bag to carry. This has tape, bandaids, alcohol pads, gauze bandages, sting kills (for bee stings), diphenhydramine for allergic reactions, Tylenol, Tums, Imodium AD. I’m a former ultra runner so this is similar to what I would carry for an ultra.  This is not that I am anticipating an injury, but this could help out someone else on the trail.

First Aid in Vehicle-I will also have a bigger kit in the vehicle, mainly because I can have it, full of more miscellaneous first aid items.

Nutrition

This is probably the less thought out portion of my daily ride. I tend to not remember to eat while biking. There doesn’t seem to be that many places to easily get food without going off the trail, so I want to make sure I have food. This is where ultra running history comes into play.

I will probably carry a sandwich with me, along with various foods to nibble on, such as crackers, cookies, foods with a high caloric count.

Tailwind

I have Tailwind left over from my last training days as a runner. I’m going to carry a bottle of Tailwind powder to dump into my water supply.  This has electrolytes and calories in it.

Ultragen

Ultragen is a recovery supplement. I just bought a new vat of it, yummy Orange Cream flavor-tastes like Orange Creamsickle! I’m planning on having a serving of this daily as soon as I finish biking for the day.

Clothes

My clothes are pretty simple. Bike shorts and running tops. I have normal socks. I don’t have to worry about washing clothes on tour, I have enough clothes where I can just discard into the dirty clothes pillow case for the day.  Well, I do have to wear my bike shorts for two days in a row, I don’t have enough to go around.

Waterproof Clothing

I will have available my good Marmot Precip jacket, which I won’t carry unless it looks like rain in the forecast. I will carry my emergency poncho with me.  I don’t have waterproof pants that currently fit.  I am biking in August, it should not be that big of a deal.  Of course, having the SAG wagon lets me bring more clothes items, like long sleeves and pants if needed.

Electronics

Of course there are electronics! I will be carrying my camera, phone, and Zune. I like to take pictures with my camera. The phone is more of a communication device (I know, call me crazy) to keep in touch with my husband, not to surf Facebook or post pictures on Facebook or Instagram.  The Zune is my old MP3 player, to listen to when I want on long stretches on the towpath. I have bought a little portable speaker called a Boombotix

(Affiliate link, it will take you to Amazon where I get a few pennies if you buy one) that I have not used on a bike ride yet, but if I am all by myself I may play some music out loud.

 

This is my first bike tour, so it’s all an experiment of one!

Any items I am forgetting?