GAP and C&O Canal Bicycle Tour 2014 Rockwood to Cumberland

Back to Connellsville to Rockwood / Forward to Cumberland to Hancock

46.5 Miles

I got out of bed at 6:30. Scott and Delinda were already up and Delinda had brewed a pot of coffee. The coffee maker, coffee, sugar, and creamer came with the house. Scott and Delinda planned to eat breakfast in Meyersdale. I stopped at the gas station and mini-mart at the turn out of town. I knew that they had breakfast sandwiches and other things that I could combine for breakfast.

The ride was going well when I left Rockwood. It was cold, but sunny. I used my rain jacket to keep my arms from freezing. The grade continued uphill at about 1% to the Eastern Continental Divide. The downhill grade into Cumberland from that point is about 1.5%.

The Salisbury Viaduct was the first big feature that I reached after about 11 miles. I stopped there for a while to enjoy it.  It is over 1900 feet long and spans the Casselman River, a four lane highway, and an active railroad bed. It was built in 1912. It was a sunny day and the view was spectacular.

Just beyond the viaduct I saw a figure on the trail that appeared to be sitting in a hunched over position. As I got closer I could make out the motorized wheelchair. As I got closer still I could see that he was wearing camouflage with an orange vest and an orange cap. It was also clear that he had a small caliber rifle with a scope aimed into the field beside the trail.

My very first thought was to stop and take a picture of him. That thought was quickly overridden by my survival instinct. I pedaled to put distance between us quickly. I frequently glanced into my rear view mirror until he passed out of sight around a curve in the trail.

There is a restored train station in Meyersdale about 13 miles from Rockwood. I went inside and told the first person I met about the guy with the gun. It was the station attendant. His reaction was somewhat surprising.

“Oh, yeah. We know about him. Somebody reported him to me a couple of weeks ago. He’s handicapped and basically has a right to carry a gun. He’s supposed to keep it in his lap under a blanket. He’s also not supposed to shoot from the trail.”

The phrasing made me think that being handicapped somehow conveyed to him the right to carry a gun.

The attendant continued, “He’s handicapped because of a drunken driving incident. Did he make you feel threatened?”

I said “no” because I felt that in a legal sense I was not threatened even though I fled the area in fear.

The station attendant added, “You never know when someone like him is going to snap.”

Another comforting thought.

I told him, “You can take my name in case you need to report him.”

He thought not, but later changed his mind.

After strolling through the exhibits in the station I walked outside to my bike. Gun guy came rolling up the trail and passed in front of me. He made a right turn at the road that crosses the trail and headed into Meyersdale. Hopefully everything went well in Meyersdale that day.

I ran into Scott and Delinda at the station in Meyersdale and would leap frog with them through the morning. I crossed the Eastern Continental Divide and went through the Big Savage Tunnel, which is the most impressive of the tunnels at 3294 feet long. They caught up with me there and we took pictures for each other at the south portal. I passed through the 957 foot long Borden Tunnel and we overtook one another at Frostburg at 12:30 PM. They continued down the trail toward Cumberland and I headed up the switchbacks for my excursion into Frostburg. That was the last time that I saw them.

There was a mission for my excursion to Frostburg. The steam engine pulling the scenic rail train arrives from Cumberland at 12:30 and I wanted to see it. Frostburg is the end point of the popular tourist train trip. You can ride in the passenger cars or, for an additional fee, you can ride in the engine cab.

After arrival in Frostburg, the engine and its tender are decoupled from the passenger cars, turned around, and coupled to the opposite end of the train of passenger cars for the trip back to Cumberland. I was a little late to see it arrive and turned around for the return trip. The turning is accomplished on a large turntable that rotates the engine almost 180 degrees to a parallel track. The parallel track allows the engine to steam past the passenger cars to the opposite end. There it is recoupled to the passenger cars for the trip back to Cumberland.  I was able to see most of that maneuver and I’m happy that I didn’t miss it.

After lunch in Frostburg I hurried back to the trail to get ahead of the train. I wanted to get a picture of the train as it steamed past me on the trail. As a bonus, I placed my GoPro Hero camera on one of the railroad ties to get a video of the oncoming locomotive.

The last 14 miles from Frostburg to Cumberland are fast because of the downhill grade. I breezed through the 914 foot long Brush Tunnel about 5 miles from Cumberland and arrived in Cumberland at about 3:15, just after the train arrived. This was the end of the GAP and the beginning of the C&O.

After checking into the Fairfield Hotel, I gathered some supplies for tomorrow: Gatorade, water, and a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch. I was assuming that there would not be a convenient restaurant between Cumberland and Hancock. Hancock was going to be my first overnight on the C&O.

I showered, had dinner, and wrote some notes before getting to bed at about 9:15.

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