GAP and C&O Bicycle Tour 2014 Cumberland to Hancock

Back to Rockwood to Cumberland / Forward to Hancock to Harpers Ferry

61.0 Miles

I was out of bed at 6:30 AM. The breakfast at the Fairfield was a complete one: there was plenty of protein to choose from as well as some carbohydrates and juices for fluid and sugar. As I packed my panniers after breakfast I noticed that the Gatorade and water I placed in the mini-fridge last night was frozen. That worked out great to keep my sandwich chilled until I ate it at 2 in the afternoon. I was on the trail at about 8:00. As I started out I couldn’t help but think that all of the people that I met so far are gone and are either ahead or behind me at this point.

The C&O Canal Trail was in good condition since the last rain had been three days ago. Still, there were some mud holes, but they were easy to avoid. All of the canal locks and lock houses kept my interest during the ride. The grade all the way to Georgetown trends downward and many of those downward slopes happen in 15 to 20 foot increments at each lock.

I came to the Paw Paw Tunnel and I found that it was special. It took 14 years to build the tunnel and it was completed in 1850. It was built using picks, shovels, and black powder. It is over 3000 feet long and it gets very dark in there. The towpath continues through the tunnel and you need to walk your bicycle because of the darkness.  A light of some kind is necessary. I could have unpacked my headlight, but I was fortunate to be able to follow a couple that had a flashlight.

There are many nice places to take a break along the trail. Many of those places are hiker / biker campsites that have a picnic table, chemical toilet, and water pump. These sites are placed every 6 to 8 miles along most of the route. Most of them are clean and acceptable, although some of them had disabled water pumps because of water purity problems. The water tastes a little metallic, I would say, but drinkable. The water is treated with iodine to kill most of the bacteria and viruses.

I wanted to have lunch at one of those sites with a view of the Potomac River. I skipped the first place that I passed because the river was obscured by trees and shrubs along the banks. The very next site was perfect. I ate lunch there with a physician from Cumberland who was on a day ride to Hancock where his wife was to pick him up. I lingered for a while after the doctor left and enjoyed the sound of the river.

My afternoon breaks increased in frequency as I approached Hancock. One of the breaks came at the ruin of a kiln used to produce cement form limestone. Cement from this kiln was used in the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol building. There was also an interesting geological formation where the limestone had been mined from the surrounding rock, leaving a gaping opening in the cliff.

I arrived in Hancock at 4:30. The Riverrun B&B where I was staying is located just across the canal [24] from the trail and was easy to find with access over a nearby bridge. Hancock is the only town that is adjacent to the canal from Cumberland. I was glad that I had brought my lunch sandwich with me. Before showering I rode into town and collected supplies for the next day: Gatorade, water, and salami and cheese on flatbread. The town is small enough that I could have walked from the B&B to complete these chores. I put the two bottles of Gatorade and one bottle of water into the freezer at the B&B so that they would keep the salami and cheese chilled until lunch the next day.

After cleaning up, I walked to Weaver’s restaurant, which was on Main Street maybe 100 yards away. When I got there I saw two bicycles that I recognized: it was Lam and his son Lam. I went inside and they were surprised when I greeted them. I sat at an adjoining table and ordered dinner. We had some discussion about the day’s ride. I left them alone as they began to strategize about where would camp that night and how far they would ride tomorrow.

Lam senior called, “Ed,” to get my attention. He wanted to know if there was room at the B&B. I think that after they saw me all cleaned up and comfortable and after some discussion, they both decided that a night with a real shower and a real bed would be a great treat. I called the owner of the B&B, but could not reach anybody. I gave Lam the number and he tried as well with no luck. I suggested that we ride to the B&B to see if there was another phone number that we could try. We did that and after trying two or three times I reached the owner by phone. There was room in the B&B and they had a room for the night. Lam junior was especially happy.

The B&B got quiet as everybody went to bed at about 9:30.

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