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Monday, October 12, 2015

C & O Canal Trail: Days 1 & 2

Hey everyone!
We're about to head back on trail but I thought I'd write about the last two days. M and I headed down to my mom's house Friday night so we'd have a jump start on the trip. Made it in at about midnight and immediately passed out. Woke up a few hours earlier (why can't I sleep normally?!?) and said our goodbyes before we get on the road. 

The drive down wasn't bad... except that I completely forgot about the traffic down in Baltimore and DC. That set us back about and hour or so, even more so than our stop at Waffle House (waffles and hash browns FTW). We made it to Great Falls State Park in Potomac, MD and proceeded to get our bikes ready for the first part of the ride. I should have expected the park to be busy because it is fall leaves season and a long weekend, but I forgot. The path was crowded, making biking difficult in parts. 
We decided we would start from the very beginning, mile marker 0 down in Georgetown. Only 14.3 miles away, so not really out of the way, plus there is no guarantee we can hit it up when we come back. Better to get it out of the way. Very scenic. Packed dirt and gravel for the most part. The C&O trail meets up with the Crescent City trail, which is paved (yay!). If you want to find mile zero, you take the trail right into DC, and look for 29th street. Drive along with some traffic (but still on bike lanes) and bike over to the Georgetown Boathouse in Tidewater Lock. Go behind the building, cross a little bridge and you'll see it.
By the time we made it back to Great Falls, it was starting to get dark. It was also getting colder and I was all for just sleeping in the car and leaving early. But M wasn't having that so we packed our bikes and headed out. We both have bike lights but I used mine as I was out in front. We planned to camp at the Horsepen campsite, which was about 10 miles away. Let's just say biking at night on a path that has the Potomac River on one side and a canal on the other is not fun. Not to mention what little light my bike light put out gave me just enough light to dodge the plentiful piles of horse manure but not enough to swerve the mud patches. It was cold; it was slightly treacherous; and I kept hearing screaming... enough to make me extremely cranky. I feel bad for anyone who heard me cursing up a storm as we approached the campsite. By the time we set up camp it was after 9:00. I was exhausted and passed out.


I woke up a few times, mostly because of the screaming (I'm guessing there was a haunted hayride nearby). I woke up again at 6:00AM and immediately tried to wake up M so we could get going. It's fall, we have limited day light. He was slow to get going so I just started to get my stuff ready. I got out of the tent and it was still dark. It threw me off for a second; I thought I had slept through the day! But I guess my noise outside got the other campers at the site to start packing up as well. We ended up not leaving until after 7:00, and it was just starting to lighten up.

The ride was nice, lots of Civil War time ruins. Plenty of dams and aqueducts to bike over and take several pictures of. The bike troubles started for M on day one, when the hook of one of his front panniers broke off. On day two, he lost the nut for his front wheel. He ended up using zip ties to keep it on. There were lots of breaks to stretch the legs out, and snack. All along the C & O canal, the campsites have water pumps which have been treated with iodine so bikers and hikers can fill their bottles. I didn't fully trust it wouldn't make me sick, so the water I brought with me was being rationed out until we got into Shepardstown, WV. M brought drinks of his own and rationed it in his own way. It seemed like most of the cyclists doing bike the trail were going in the direction opposite from us... which of course made me nervous. Had I been foolish to want to go to Pittsburgh and not start there and end up in DC? Nah... this is my excuse to spend time in my dream city.

We had lunch in Brunswick, MD; the town I had considered being our first night stop of the tour. Smallish town up on a hill. We ate at Potomac Street Grill. We sat outside so we could keep an eye on our fully loaded bikes. We split an order of vegetable spring rolls, M had a vegetable quesadilla, and ordered a cup of Maryland crab soup and the chicken shawarma. The soup was decent, the shawarma while it smelled fantastic tasted so-so. The chicken was dry. I ended up eating only 75% of it. The spring rolls tasted to the frozen variety, and M said the ones he had were still frozen in the middle. The few I tried were slightly lukewarm.

Other than the typical "Hey" and "Good Morning/Afternoon" I say to passing riders, I didn't get that friendly chat between cyclists that I've heard and read about. Not until we made it to Shepardstown. A family we saw at the restaurant back in Brunswick were stopped by Lock 38 in Shepardstown. We were trying to figure out how to get up to the overpass to get into town. Both their notes and M's Google maps said to go up the steep hill.

Hills. More freaking hills.

After the walk up the road, we biked into town where we were welcomed with a narrow shoulder and hey... another hill! At the top of the hill we said our goodbyes with our fellow cyclists and made our way to our hotel. One night of camping was enough for me. Creature comforts is what I need. Running water and heat and toilets that flush. The hotel was next to a shopping plaza and several food options. We ended up ordering "NY style" pizza that hardly was. It was okay... or so I thought.

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