Thursday, September 25, 2008

Day 5 September 22, 2008. 70 miles: Harpers Ferry, WV to Washington, DC

We all piled into the truck at 7:30 this morning to ride up the hill to a little restaurant for breakfast. How little was it? There was one woman working. She was cook, waitress, table busser and dishwasher. The service was good and the food was great! At one point, when other customers came in, Barbara got up from her chair and gave them water and menus, and refilled everyone's coffee!

After breakfast we fixed our lunches on the tailgate of the truck and bought snacks at the 7-11, since there was no place for lunch and not even a good place to meet Doris, who I think was getting tired of driving all over the place looking for us! Our plan was to stay together for this last day. We started out crossing the bridge back into Maryland and carrying our bikes down all those steps we came up at the end of yesterday's ride. I had no room to carry lunch, so Charlie carried my lunch on his bike and I carried his wallet. That turned out to be a bad idea...

Once we were back on the trail, we saw the Potomac on our right and the canal on our left. We passed many locks and historic sites--this portion of the river and canal both played important roles in the Civil War. We saw markers commemorating important battles and crossings, and even a point where the confederates broke down the wall and drained part of the canal to stop union boats from getting through! We passed a working ferry station, that has been in operation since the 1700s, and waited there for Otis and Charlie, who had gotten behind.

When they caught up to us, we found out that Doris had been trying to call all of us, and was only able to reach Otis, who also tried calling the rest of us numerous times... He was not a happy camper, and neither was Doris! She did not want to drive into the Washington DC area (who would?) and the GPS would not accept the address she was given for our ending point in Bethesda.... From our trail map I picked a place near the end of our planned trail route where there was a paved road to a visitor's center and suggested she meet us there.

Our planned lunch stop was at Seneca Creek Aqueduct, and it was there that my phone went dead. Doris tried to call us to tell us that Charlie had bonked a couple of miles back, and Dianne was with him. They were going to break there for lunch. But Charlie had my lunch too! She finally reached Fred on his cell phone to give us the message. I snacked on trail mix until Charlie recovered and came forward with my lunch, which I then ate and we hit the trail again.

By then Barbara was way far ahead and she was the only one who knew where we were going (her house). She waited for us at the visitor's center where we all met up with Doris. Fred and Otis got in the truck to drive with Doris to Barbara's house, leaving their bikes locked up at the parking lot. It seemed that all was well....
Now we were 4. We got back on the trail, and there was another detour, which we handled well. I was amazed that we were so close to the city, yet there was no indication of it. The trail and canal went on as before, in fact, the locks were in better condition here--there were even some with the old gate operating machinery still attached. There was a replica canal boat under construction at the visitor's center.

The best laid plans can sometimes go awry. When Barbara, Dianne, Charlie and I got to the point at which we planned to get off the canal trail and head for Barbara's house we were only 3 miles from the very end of the trail. We asked Barbara how long a ride it was from there to her house and she told us 45 minutes. When we measured 45 minutes against the 3 miles to the end of the trail, we decided to deviate from the plan and ride to the end of the trail, then take the train back to Barbara's house. That was our first mistake.

Charlie decided he had had enough of the bumpy dusty trail, and would ride the paved Capital Crescent Trail and meet up with us where they converged. That was our second mistake... Barbara, Dianne and I stayed on the dusty trail, but we never met up with Charlie. Barbara told us that Charlie's phone was in the truck, so we did not try to call him right away. When we got to the Georgetown Visitor's Center we talked to a park ranger who showed us where the trail ended. It dead ended against a freeway, busy with rush hour traffic and there was not even a "0 mile" marker! We took photos anyway and started looking for Charlie. Barbara knew how to get to the beginning of the Capital Crescent Trail, so away we went on our bikes, through rush hour traffic in Washington, past tourists and business people, fountains and outdoor restaurants.... Barbara called and told the others to go ahead and eat, since we would be late.

There was a detour right where we were supposed to get on the bike trail, so we were back in traffic again for a couple of miles... we ended up right where the paved trail met the Canal trail, but Charlie was not there either. Dianne called and left a message on his phone and we split up again--I went up on the Canal trail leaving Barbara and Dianne on the paved trail and I took one of their phones with me, since my phone had been dead most of the day. Our plan was to ride 10 MPH, talk to each other at every connection between the trails, and call if we found Charlie. When I got to the first trail connection they were not there. I waited a couple of minutes and then they called and told me to come back to where we had started because they had found Charlie.
They found him alright--he was at the train station looking for us! We pedaled back through town, on busy streets to the train station and took a very long time to find him... we finally saw his face at 6:45 PM, and he was smiling! He told us that he found out that we could not take the bikes on the train until 7 PM so we were just in time... the only problem was that the bikes were not allowed on the escalator so we had to go to a different station to take them down on an elevator! We dashed over there, back on the bikes in heavy traffic, and found the elevator out of order! So we carried the bikes down the escalator anyway, got our tickets and got on the crowded subway train with our bikes and our mud.

When we detrained at Barbara's stop, it was pitch dark. We followed her to her house, about a 10 or 15 minute very scary ride (my bike light did not work, after working in the tunnel just a couple of days ago!). Of course Fred and Doris and Otis had been ready to leave HOURS ago. We were expected between 5 and 6 PM and arrived at 8. They had picked up the bikes they left at the visitor's center and had some supper while waiting... It was not a happy scene and we all felt bad for holding them up when we knew they wanted to be out of the metro DC area that night.

We were very glad to get off the bikes at Barbara's house! Charlie started taking his bike apart to ship home to Vermont, I took a much needed shower and was ready to leave in record time, while Dianne started to get her bike ready to ship home to Florida and Barbara looked stressed beyond endurance. What an end! Someday we will laugh about this last day of our otherwise wonderful trip on the trails--but I don't think it will be anytime soon. This last photo is the definitive photo of the trip--it is Fred, in the lead, pulling away from the rest of us!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If that's the same Fred that I rode with on the Michigander, he always wants to be in the lead. I still haven't figured out what the hurry is!
Sounds like you had a great time, I'd love to do that sometime.