98 miles in 9.33 hours – Max Speed 33.5mph
As the sun was rising I was busy packing up my campsite, eager to set out on my second to last real day on the bike, and last day before seeing my family. Problem was I was still around 35 miles out of Hancock, MD, which was the first real town of the day. Knowing the condition of the trail, I knew this meant probably 4 hours before eating my first meal of the day, but it had to be done, so I set out.
I camped probably only a half mile from this, another halfmile long tunnel. This one was extra exciting because it was narrow, unlit, bumpy, and you could fall into some disgusting water if you went too far left. Have I mentioned how shitty the C&O canal is?
This guy looked much less fierce than the guy I passed yesterday on the GAP.
The C&O trail was still in bad shape, but it was somewhat improved from the previous night. That being said the going was still slow. I churned out the miles though, and ate all of my snacks that I had left and drank my remaining potable water. There were occasional water pumps on the side of the trail, but only about half of them worked, and only about half of those put out water that I would consider drinking. And I filled up one water bottle the previous night with water that eventually turned clear after enough pumping, and by this morning my entire bottle was iron red on the inside, and the water was as well. Brilliant.
Part of the mill, as well as a surprisingly dry portion of the C&O canal trail. If any of you are entry level engineers, here is a little pointer for you. If all you do to build a trail is dig a two inch deep trough into some land, when it rains your trail may just end up filling up with water. Just saying.
More of the mill. Oh, did I mention I almost got ran over by a honey wagon on the C&O canal trail too. Yup, turns out they drive right down it, splashing mud and water everywhere (and it is particularly gross to be splashed with mud from a honey wagon). Thanks.
Anyway, I managed to make it to Hancock without succumbing to hunger or heavy metal poisoning, where I promptly went to Hardee’s and had my fill of burgers and iced tea. I took some pictures of my bike while I was there.
I had to stop and clean chunks of mud out of my fenders twice on the trail because they were rubbing the wheels. And I didn't dare to change gears. And I had to drink out of those lovely water bottles.
Oh yeah, and I hope you don't have to brake, for whatever reason.
Anyway, riding up into town from the C&O trail, I noticed another trail, called the Western Maryland Rail Trail. I looked online for information on it, because at this point I hated the C&O with a passion. It turns out it only runs 20 miles, but it was actually paved! It was the nicest bike path of the trip so far. I took it to a turnoff where I could get on Route 40/144, which would take me pretty much all the way home.
The problem with bailing off of the C&O trail early is that there are three mountain ranges between where Route 40 begins and Frederick, MD. The longer I stay on the C&O, the more of these I miss. But at that point I was so fed up with the C&O trail that I said screw it and decided to contend with the mountains instead.
I started down 40, and quickly it turned into a beautiful road with six foot shoulders, which is very rare on non-freeways. This was really a great treat for bicyclers. The only problem is that I had to contend with thunderstorms, and it was looking threatening. However, I managed to make it most of the way to Frederick without being rained on. The mountains were as I feared though, particularly the two ranges between Hagerstown and Frederick. I felt like I was climbing forever on them, which I chalked up to relatively flat ground for the last 2000 miles, but once I reached the top of the final range, I had an amazing decent into the city of Frederick. Apparently they are pretty big, or so that decent told me.
George Washington wuz here.
I passed another trail, but this one was not for bikes.
For the benefit of possible tourers looking at this, the other problem with route 40/144 is that the roads become very narrow in the cities of Hagerstown and Frederick. I found myself on a few sidewalks and secondary roads through these towns. Route 144 also goes through the rough part of Frederick.
Once I reached Frederick, I called my family in Monrovia, just 10 miles away, and told them to expect me in an hour. I hung up, excited for a shower and a home cooked meal. I went out to the first light back on route 144, and during the time I sat there the weather went from just being overcast, to a light drizzle, to an absolute downpour. I was going to take shelter in the next gas station, but it was too late by the time the light turned green, as I was already soaked. So I soldiered on.
This was definitely the most wet I got the entire trip, as it poured for the next half hour. But it actually felt pretty good since I knew that I was almost home and that a hot shower awaited me. I turned off the 144 onto the 75, nearly got run over a half mile from my aunt and uncle’s houses on the final uphill of the day (4300 miles and the cars still don’t learn… there are roads where two cars and a bike all cannot fit next to each other… wait literally 2 seconds and then pass me, jerks), and then made it to see them standing out in their yard with a camcorder and signs, which was moderately embarrassing.
I relaxed for the rest of the night, looking forward to my first rest day since San Francisco tomorrow.
View Larger Map
Note: this map is only for the roads I took, not the bike trails