126 miles in 11.67 hours – Max Speed 22mph
When I woke up the next day I made the proclamation on my Twitter and Facebook feed that I knew that the only way I would make it to Monrovia by tomorrow was that I needed to do a 125 mile day today. So the heat was on, since that would be my biggest day of the trip by a pretty fair margin. Suffice it to say I was awake with the dawn.
I started out down the path, but quickly ran into some issues. It appears that the thunderstorm that I was in yesterday must have been just as intense down here because there were two or three places where whole trees were down across the bike path. So it always took a little bit of time to navigate those spots.
After that it was a very smooth trip on the GAP. I just got into a rhythm, and other than stopping for breakfast and lunch, really just banged out the miles early in the day. Before I knew it I was at a mile long stretch with three exciting moments all together. The Eastern Continental Divide, the Big Savage Tunnel, and the Mason Dixon Line. The Eastern Continental Divide meant I got a pretty nice downhill for the next 25 miles, the Big Savage Tunnel is the most impressive engineering feat on the trail, and the Mason Dixon Line meant I was finally in my home state of Maryland. Awesome.
I cruise down the hill on the other side of the continental divide at 16 mph for the next 25 miles, and although the clouds looked extremely threatening, they held out for a while before they absolutely dumped on me. But like yesterday, it was so severe that it only lasted for a few minutes. Although there was a little bit more sleet/hail in there, which I have to say was not very pleasant.
Anyway, like I said it stopped pretty quickly, and I made it to Cumberland, MD not long after that. I stopped in town and took a quick walk around, since it was only 5:00 and I had already done just under 100 miles for the day. I rode down to the downtown district (Baltimore Street) and ate dinner at a great cafe. I then hopped back on the bike and got to the C&O canal.
The C&O canal turned out to be a totally different beast than the GAP. Most obviously, instead of being a packed gravel, as most bike paths are, it was instead packed dirt. Which unfortunately meant that is was a sloppy, disgusting, almost unrideable mess. The good thing though, is that every five miles or so there are free hiker/biker campgrounds for people using the path. But the path really was in abysmal shape, and the going on it was very, very slow.
This upset me for a number of reasons, but mainly because I know a lot of people actually do the Pittsburgh to DC bike trip as a vacation, and they usually do it in that order. So they get spoiled by the nice shape of the YRT, and then they get to the C&O trail and it is apparently awful if it has rained recently (though in it’s defense, it had rained A LOT in the few days leading up to my arrival). It makes the state of Maryland look bad in my opinion. I think you need a Mountain Bike with fenders to really be able to appreciate this trail.
Anyway, I got going, wanting to knock out some miles tonight before it got dark. Even though I wasn’t breaking any speed records I was chugging along quite slowly. The problem is it was so overgrown with trees, it started to become very dark quite early, so I had to stop a bit earlier than I would have liked. I just got set up in a hiker/biker spot and went to sleep (no showers and gross running water at these places). But I knew that I had my 125 miles and Monrovia by dinner time tomorrow was in fact achievable.