Thursday, September 25, 2008

Day 4, September 21, 2008. 71 miles: Hancock, MD to Harpers Ferry, WV

Today was a very trying day. Yet another example of why we should plan shorter days on our next trail ride! We started out at the Hancock bike shop, where I purchased a pair of gloves--my hands were very sore from the rough ride yesterday. I started out with the new gloves, and very soon ended up wearing both pairs to try to cushion my hands.

There was a paved bike path out of Hancock, part of the Western Maryland Rail Trail, and we rode that for 10 miles before getting back on the C & O Canal Trail. While riding the WMRT, we saw several deer in the morning mist, and a collection of transportation methods that spanned 3 centuries: we had the Potomac River and the C & O Canal to our right, we were on the former railroad bed, and the I-70 freeeway was on our left! Fred and Barbara and I stopped at Fort Frederick State Park for a short break while the other 3 rode ahead.

The scenery was awesome and the weather was perfect! We saw much the same wildlife as yesterday, and the Potomac River was ever changing. The C & O Canal, in some places, was a wide expanse of water upon which we could well imagine the heavy barge traffic that it supported up until 1924. Other places were dry and overgrown with trees and scrub. Yet other areas were nothing but a very wide ditch, neatly mowed and groomed. Some of the locks that we saw were very well kept, and seemed to be in the process of restoration, while others were wildly overgrown. We passed a lovely old mill, with the water wheel still rotating and an original canal lift bridge, that used to raise up out of the way for the canal boats and lower into position for the trains to cross the canal.

About 10 miles after we got back on the C & O Canal trail I had a flat tire. Not a big deal, since I had a spare tube on me and one in the truck... When we changed it I found that I had put a patched tube in my bike bag and left the new tube in the truck. Still not a big deal. One mile later all of a sudden it was a big deal! The patch gave out and I was stuck on the trail with a second flat tire and no spare. Fred had a spare tube the right size, but it had a schrader valve which did not fit my wheeel (which uses presta valves). Barbara had a spare tube with presta valve, but the tube was the wrong size! There was a road within sight, and Fred got Doris on the phone to try to figure out what road it was and how to get her there. I called Otis, who had ridden ahead with Dianne and Charlie before I had my first flat. He had a tube that was close to the right size and had a presta valve. He agreed to ride back the 6 miles to where I was, so we were able to give Doris a reprieve.

After my tire was changed (again) and inflated, we went on... There was no place for lunch again today, so we planned to meet Doris at Dam 4 Road for sandwiches. A couple of miles before Dam 4 Rd. there was a detour due to the trail being washed out. The detour took us out on the paved hilly roads, which was actually quite fun, but added miles to our day's total. Fred challenged me on the hills, as usual. We were both near collapse when we arrived at the lunch stop! Otis and Barbara were behind us, and Otis got a flat tire on the way downhill to the park. Fortunately he was not going as fast as Fred and I had on that last downhill! He left his bike in the bushes and carried the flat tire down to our stop at Dam 4.

After lunch I picked up my spare tube from the truck, changed Otis's tire while he walked back up the hill to get his bike, and went on my way. It was about 20 miles on the trail before I had my third flat tire of the day. I had it changed and partially inflated by the time Barbara and Fred caught up to me. Unfortunately I had the CO2 inflator that uses threaded canisters and a bunch of unthreaded canisters in my bike bag, so I lost a lot of gas while inflating... We finished filling the tire with Fred's little hand pump and were on our way again.

By that time Charlie and Dianne were hours ahead of us. That was a good thing for them! They got into Harpers Ferry before the rain, which caught Fred, Barbara, Otis and me on the dusty trail--of course it quickly turned into the muddy trail. We were soon covered with mud, and so were our bikes. The downpour only lasted about a half hour, and was done by the time we got to Harpers Ferry. Just before the bridge across to WV, Fred and I saw a bald eagle, and some kayakers in the rocky Potomac River. We had to carry our bikes up many steps to the train bridge over the river. Just what we wanted at the end of a hard day!

Harpers Ferry is a beautifully preserved/restored historic place. It would have been wonderful to get there in time to see it! We stayed in a small place called Town's Inn. Charlie and Dianne had arrived first, and Charlie got a single room. Diane registered for the one with double bunk beds, and Fred and Doris's registration was in the building next door where the bathroom was actually attached to the bedroom. When I arrived I was told that Otis and I were sharing a room with bunk beds! We both decided that that was not a good idea (duh). Charlie offered me his single room, which he had asked for to avoid Otis's snoring... Dianne and Barbara offered me a share in their double bunks, and Otis finally decided he would sleep in the truck using the bedroll I had brought along in case of a situation just like this! After Otis left, the woman at the Inn gave us his room for free, so we girls each got a bed to ourselves.

We had a beer on the front porch of the Inn before even getting our rooms--it was that kind of day... We had a wonderful dinner, and went to bed wishing we had planned more time at Harpers Ferry.

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