Monday, August 31, 2009

C&O Canal and GAP Ride - Day 6 - Pizza Party

The final night of our trip, we hooked up with the Tandem Couple from Ohio and ordered pizza. We sat on the picnic table outside their cabin and spent the better part of 2 hours, drinking beer, eating pizza, talking, laughing and getting to know one another.

Even today, more than a month later, I kick myself in the butt for not getting a picture of that evening. Then again, maybe its better that way. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, I guess that's true. Yet I wonder, how many words does it take to describe a memory? I suspect a thousand words doesn't scratch the surface.

Over the last few days, I've referred to them as:

- The Tandem Couple from Ohio
- The Tandem Lady from Ohio
- The Tandem Blonde Lady from Ohio

On this final night, over pizza, beer and fellowship; they've become Ed and Deb. Thanks for the memories - until we ride together again!!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

C&O Canal and GAP Ride - Day 6 - Wimpy Dinger?

We arrived at the River's Edge campground and noticed that the Tandem Couple from Ohio must have just gotten there themselves, because they were in the camp office checking in. When they came out, we confronted them about the incident earlier on the trail when we were Left in Their Dust. I tried to explain that my ringing of the bell was simply to signal the passing of a milepost, not the start of a race.

The Tandem Lady from Ohio commented that she thought she heard a bell and turned around and saw us. It turns out that a discussion ensued in which her husband wanted to wait for us to catch up, so that we could all ride together and fellowship. The Tandem Lady from Ohio would have none of that. She was in favor of putting the hammer down and dropping us like a bad habit. As you can tell by my previous post on this subject, she won the argument.

She then proceeded, unnecessarily I might add, to point out that I had a WIMPY BELL. "Perhaps" she added, "if your bell were more manly, I would have waited for you!" She then began to compare my bell to little toy horns that they put on kid's bikes. Not noticing the tears that were welling up in my eyes, she went on to make these sissy, little, dinging sounds to mockingly simulate the perfect intonation of my retro-style brass bell.

To say I was taken aback by her disparaging and insensitive remarks would be an understatement of astronomical proportions. The fact that she was blonde, and an attractive one at that, further added to my befuddlement and disconcertedness. Here I was, going through life, happily ding-dinging along and now my very dingerhood is ridiculed and despised.

This Tandem Blonde Lady from Ohio had no idea the hallow ground upon which she trod. As any of my long time readers know and as attested by I Lost My Bell Today, my bell holds a very esteemed place in my life and heart. One can talk trash about my wife or kids or just about anything else in my life and I'm pretty good natured about it. But to criticize my dinger - well that crosses a line.

I am a Dinger Man and proud of it. I have a dinger on my Touring Bike.I have a dinger on my Fixed gear Bike.I have a dinger on my Roadster.A man's dinger is a deeply personal thing. I searched long and hard to find just the right one:

- the right size

- the right look

- the right feel

- the right tone

A man's dinger, when properly cared for, will serve him faithfully for many years and miles. A man's dinger is always there, ready to answer his beckoned call, rise to the occasion and resonate its cheerful tone. A man's dinger boldly announces his presence. A man's dinger should not be taken lightly or become the brunt of coarse jesting. A man's dinger should be gazed upon with awe and not spurned. A man's dinger should serve as a conversation piece, not made a mockery of.

Yet here was this Tandem Blonde Lady from Ohio all but saying I had a "dinky dinger". I ask you, my dear readers, what does such reckless frivolity say about her? What kind of woman would be so brash as to make sport of a strange man's dinger, that she's only had the pleasure of hearing ding once?

I beg of my dear readers, refrain from picking up stones and casting them her way. I have had a month to painstakingly wrestle with this unprovoked attack upon my dinger and I think I have happened upon a plausible explanation. Although I still bare the scars, I have found it in my heart to forgive her and once you hear it, I am sure you, my benevolent readers, will let the stones drop from your righteous hands.

When the Tandem Blonde Lady from Ohio heard my dinger ding, it must have awakened something in her. She had never held a real dinger in her hand. She had never known the pleasure a good dinger could bring. She had never felt the resonations of a finely honed dinger. When she heard my dinger ding, she was overwhelmed with a sense of emptiness. I had something she wanted and yet she knew she could never have it. Can you imagine how maddening that must have been?

The wrongs that I suffered at her words were grave, but holding a grudge against her would only lessen me. Not only have I forgiven her, but I have decided to take a step to end her suffering and possibly spare future, innocent, unsuspecting, happy-go-lucky men from the trauma associated with her unsolicited attacks upon their dingerhood.

I am going to give her a dinger of her own. I hope it gives her years of dinging pleasure.PS - The following day, I continued to ring my bell at every milepost, but not with near the enthusiasm and confidence as on previous days:-(

C&O Canal and GAP Ride - Day 6 - Fan Club

As we rode through Connellsville, I stopped to take a picture of this.As I did so, I noticed a gentle tug of my bike. It turns out I had a bit of an admirer.
I've often told people I was a chic magnet. Now I have a picture to prove it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

C&O Canal and GAP Ride - Day 6 - Left in Their Dust

Midway through the day, we stopped in the town of Ohiopyle, where once again we ran into the Tandem Couple from Ohio.After a few pictures at the waterfalls there in town, the four of us found an outdoor deli and had a nice lunch together, which was interrupted when a brief rain storm blew through. After the storm, we went our separate ways.

Later that afternoon, we were cruising along at 17-18 mph. Actually, Bob was cruising at 17-18 mph, I was simply tucked in tight behind him, drafting for dear life. We noticed the Tandem Couple from Ohio up ahead. We were gaining on them slowly, but surely. Along about that time, we passed a mile marker and I did what I had been doing at each mile marker for the past couple hundred miles. I rang my bell. The Tandem Couple from Ohio heard it and turned around.

One would think that when you notice your two new friends coming up behind you, that you would sit up and await their arrival with glee. Then we could all ride together and fellowship. This would be particularly true were those news friend attempting to hail you with an audible signal (of course that wasn't why I rang the bell, but they didn't know that). Yet - what one thinks and reality aren't always the same.

I could tell that my ringing the bell had sparked a lively discussion between the Tandem Couple from Ohio. Then the stoker assumed the tucked position and I knew we were in trouble. I have ridden with and among tandems quite a bit over the years and in so doing have learned a fact or two about them. Going up a hill, tandems ain't for dooky. Their ascent is slow and tedious. However, going down a hill or on the flats is an entirely different story. A tandem is twice the horsepower but not twice the resistance. These two things, in downhill or flat conditions, mean raw power and speed.

This particular section of the trail was flat if not slightly downhill, so I knew we had a battle on our hands. As for me, I was willing to do my part. I was tucked in 6" behind Bob's wheel and I was ready to ride as fast and hard as necessary to hold that wheel. All Bob had to do was ride up front, break the wind and close the gap. It turns out he was not willing or able to hold up his end of the deal. He faltered, he slowed and the tandem Couple from Ohio left us in their dust.

Bob and I could have be crestfallen, either by the way we were so rudely shunned by our new friends or by the fact that such stellar physical specimens as ourselves were left sucking wind in their wake. However, as I am sure my astute readers have ascertained by now, Bob and I are bigger men than that. We decided to take the high road and make excuses. We could have taken them if:

They had ridden over 250 miles from DC, instead of a measly 80 miles from Cumberland.

They were laden with 50 lbs of gear, instead of the pittance load of clothes that they bore.

They were roughing it by camping, instead of pampering themselves with B&Bs.

They were riding the full 50 miles to McKeesport, instead of the meager 30 miles to West Newton.

...The list goes on, but as you can see, Bob and I were clearly stronger and faster. Our being dropped was entirely due to the Tandem Couple from Ohio taking unfair advantage of circumstance.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

C&O canal and GAP Ride - Day 6 - The Dance

Our 6th day on the trail was largely occupied with us passing through the beautiful and scenic Ohiopyle State Park. The trail took us across countless trellises that spanned the Youghiogheny River as the two made their winding way down the mountain. They gracefully stepped over and under one another as in a perfectly choreagraphed routine. I could tell this was not their first dance.

Bob and I were just glad to be on the dance floor.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

C&O Canal and GPA Ride - Day 5 - The Guesthouse

The Husky Haven Campground in Rockwood was, as advertised, just off the trail. The campground was in a dense forest and it had rained the night. These two things combined to make the campground a dark, dreary, damp and muddy place. We did not relish the thought of staying there for the night and we had the means, so instead we opted to rent the Husky Haven Guesthouse.We had the entire house to ourselves, complete with:
- 3 bedrooms (stocked with clean linens)
- 1 bath (stocked with clean towels)
- kitchen (stocked with cookware, dishes and silverware)
- dining room
- living room with cable TV
- basement/gameroom with computer (high speed internet), pool table and ping pong
- deck with furniture

That evening I fixed a salad with spaghetti and garlic bread. We sat down at the table with real place settings and ate like kings. After dinner, we cleaned up and as the sun set, we mosied to the back deck and enjoyed a beer or two.Along about this time a young man pulls up on his bike. The camp office was in the basement of the guesthouse and he was stopping to check in. It was a clunker of a bike loaded down with all manner of gear. He was an outgoing fella. He pointed out that he had traveled 80 miles today and had broken two spokes in the process. He was elated to have arrived before dark. I didn't have the heart to point out that technically it was pretty much dark already and by the time he made it across the river to the campground, it would be darker than the charred walls of hell.

I benevolently invited him to stay in the extra room of the guest house and all he would have to pay is the $35 for an additional person. He gratefully declined, pointing out that he was starting this fall in elementary education and was on a shoestring budget.

As we continued to talk, we learned that he started riding in Minnesota and was going to visit his sister in DC. He was hoping to make it by Saturday. I didn't have the heart to tell him that riding 115 miles/day on the C&O Canal Trail, on a bike that breaks spokes every 40 miles was as likely as a snowballs chance in hell.

Never the less, this young man's story and enthusiasm were inspirational. On his trip: He had retired truckers invite him to stay with them. He helped deliver a calf. One night, as he slept, he had a coon eat all his food and spread the contents of his panniers in a 50' radius. He had ridden from Minnesota on a bike I wouldn't trust to ride across the street. This young man was a true adventurist. When Bob and I bid him farewell and went into the house to go to bed, I thought I'd heard the last of him. Yet, a couple weeks later, when I got back home, the Tandem Couple from Ohio sent me an article from their local newspaper. It turns out our young adventurist in Rockwood had passed close to their home town and stopped at a local bikeshop to, get this, have some broken spokes fixed! Check out the article - Cyclists find a friend at Elmore Shop. We live in a small world.

C&O Canal and GAP - Day 5 - Bar Mantra

In a bar in downtown Rockwood, I was given another reason (like I really needed one) to ride a bike:

C&O Canal and GAP Ride - Day 5 - It's All Down Hill From Here

For the past 208 miles, ever since leaving DC, we really had been riding uphill. Everybody we encountered over the last few days made a special effort to point that out - the 3 Fun Dip Kids, the guy outside Paw-Paw, the 3 guys inside Paw-Paw, the waitress inside the Schoolhouse Kitchen, a cashier in the gift shop at Fort Frederick... We had heard it so much that I had taken to, when telling folks about our travels, ending with, "I know - we're going uphill - what can I say - we're idiots." As I stood there looking at this elevation map, I realized just how big of idiots we really were.

Now that we stood atop the Eastern Continental Divide, staring at the elevation map, we refused to dwell on the past 208 miles but instead took great comfort in one other truth that it revealed. The remaining 100+ miles of our trip were all downhill.

We waisted no time in pushing off and for the first time in 5 days, enjoy going downhill. With minimal effort, we were cruising at the trail speed limit of 15 mph.We chewed up the 10 miles to our lunch stop in Meyersdale.

We ran into the Tandem Couple from Ohio who were about to ride downhill into town for lunch. Since we were only 10 miles from our stop for the night in Rockwood and more importantly a bike shop to fix Bob's bike, we skipped lunch and rode on.
In no time at all we were in Rockwood, PA.

Monday, August 24, 2009

C&O Canal and GAP Ride - Day 5 - The Climb

Day 5 dawned dark and foreboding. I'm not sure if the foreboding had as much to do with the weather as with that which awaited us. THE CLIMB!! We met several southern bound riders over the last few days that warned us of the THE CLIMB coming out of Cumberland. It was 22 miles in length, passed through 3 tunnels and would take us to the top of the Eastern Continental Divide, the highest point on the Great Allegheny Passage at 2392 feet.

After a quick breakfast at McDonald's, we loaded our bikes and were on the trail by 8:00 am. The climb began immediately. It wasn't a steep grade, only 1-2%, but loaded down with 40+ lbs of gear, it was enough. We each rode at our own pace, which is what you should do when you climb a mountain, especially one you want to reach the top of.

After 5 miles we came to the Brush Tunnel. The Tandem Couple From Ohio were there. We took a few pictures, exchanged pleasantries. While they worked on a mechanical problem with their front brake, Bob and I rode on.The higher we got, the more foggy and damp the air became. It never rained, but the air was so saturated with moisture, it was like riding through a perpetual mist. Couple this with my profuse sweating and the net result = I was soaked and loving every minute of it.

Bob was out of sight ahead of me and the Tandem Couple from Ohio were out of sight behind me when I pulled up to the Borden Tunnel and this is the scene that I beheld.The tunnel, shrouded in fog was like a scene out of an old black and white horror movie. I don't spook easily, but the thought of riding through that dark tunnel alone unnerved me. I turned on my pitiful excuse for a head light and then rode into the mouth of the tunnel. My light was about as effective as pissing on a forest fire. I was immediately enveloped in a darkness so impenetrable that it could be felt. The light did little more than reflect off the moisture in the air and produce a faint glow 2 feet in diameter. The tunnel was only 957', but it was the longest 957' of my life. At any moment I expected one of two things to occur. Either I would ram my head into the sidewall of the tunnel or Frankenstein's monster would emerge from the darkness, clasp its hideous hands around my skull and crush it. Either way, I was going to die of major head drama. I shuttered to think of the gruesome scene the Tandem Couple from Ohio would soon ride upon.

It was with no small sigh of relief, that I emerged on the other side unscathed. I hoped that monster would spare the Tandem Couple from Ohio, but I wasn't sticking around to find out.

A little ways past the tunnel of death, I found Bob stopped on the trail. He complained about the rear wheel rubbing the brake. It turns out he had broken a spoke. I loosened the brake and silently prayed that another one would not break or else Bob would be a walking (maybe I could keep up with him then). I cursed myself for not cautioning Bob to get a few extra spokes. Note to future Bike Tourers, buy a few extra spokes and tape them to your top tube.

We continued to ride skyward and soon came upon the 3,294 ' long Big Savage Tunnel. I was grateful for 2 things. It had lights and I wasn't riding through it alone.We continued our upward ride and were soon rewarded with the Eastern Continental Divide coming into view. As we drew near, the Tandem Couple from Ohio (they passed us while I worked on Bob's bike), snapped our picture.

C&O Canal and GAP Ride - Day 4 - Cumberland, MD

After spending a few minutes in the C&O Canal Visitor Center in Cumberland, Bob and I rode to the motel. As we pulled up to the front door, we noticed a couple wrestling a tandem off the roof of their car. They were being dropped off in Cumberland by his father and were going to spend the next few days riding the Great Allegheny Passage. As we talked briefly, it turns out that their itinerary matched ours except they were staying in B&Bs and cabins while el-cheapos Bob and I were camping. I will affectionately refer to this couple as the Tandem Couple from Ohio in that they will have the distinct honor of being featured in a blog post or two over the next couple days on the trail.

I checked into the motel and we wrestled our heavily laden bikes up the elevator and into our room. It was a great sigh of relief when I walked into the room and beheld 2 double beds. We turned the AC on full blast, threw aside the curtains and to what did our wondering eyes behold but an avalanche of water in the form of a torrential downpour. I couldn't believe it. We had been on the trail 4 days and 3 nights. We were vulnerable to the whims of mother nature and in all that time, not a drop of rain fell. Yet the moment we are all nestled nice and cozy in a motel room, the bottom falls out. Bob and I - we must be living right.

After hot showers, shaves and donning clean clothes, we headed out for dinner. I was craving steak, had been ever since Waynesboro when our planned steak dinner was trumped by beanie weenies. We headed for the Baltimore Grill at the recommendation of the bartender in the motel.The Baltimore Grill was located on Baltimore Street (shown above). It was a small, obviously local joint. Bob ordered Chicken Alfredo and I splurged on the surf and turf which was Filet Mignon buried under a mountain of crabmeat.

As we waited for our food, I noticed another cyclist wearing a jersey which read I asked him about it and he said it was his website where he was keeping a journal of his ride across the country. He started in Arizona and was nearing the end of his journey in Baltimore, MD.

After dinner, Bob was in the mood for ice cream. I had come to the sad realization that Bob had an ice cream problem. I was in favor of finding a nice pub where we could enjoy a less addictive refreshment like beer, but Bob preferred to walk all around the town of Cumberland in order to get his ice cream fix. After walking practically every block in downtown, we finally found the elusive creamery that Bob had read about in the motel. The place was closed for their annual employee picnic. Bob took this news hard. As he stood there with his face pressed up against the dark window, I couldn't help but notice his hands shaking a bit and I'm not certain, but I think I saw a tear reflected in the glass.

After a bit, I gently pulled Bob away from the creamery window and we made our way back to the motel. I was full and had a few too many beers at the restaurant and I was getting real sleepy. I put on my pajamas and crawled into bed. It was around 8:30 and Bob absolutely refused to go to bed at such a ridiculous hour, so he turned on the TV. I piled all the pillows on my head in a feeble attempt to block the light and sound of the TV. I finally gave up and started watching the movie. I was really getting into it. At the climactic moment of the film, when the guy and girl finally reach for one another for a passionate embrace, the TV goes blank. Bob had apparently gotten tired and turned off the damn TV. I muttered under my breath likening Bob's noggin to the male sex organ and fell asleep.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

C&O Canal and GAP Ride - Day 4 - The End of the Canal

After lunch, we continued North toward Cumberland, our scheduled stop for the night. As we got closer to Cumberland, the condition of the trail degraded to the point that we were constantly zig-zagging from one side of the trail to the other in order to navigate a veritable minefield of mud puddles. It made the going slow, if not a bit annoying. At the same time, the sky was growing more and more ominous. So far on this trip, we had been spared any rain, I was really hoping our luck would hold out at least until we got off the C&O. Generally, I don't mind riding in the rain, in fact, I rather enjoy it. However, I've ridden on the C&O in the rain and it is far from an enjoyable experience. I did not relish the thought of being caked in mud when we got to Cumberland. I've been there and done that - yucky!!

After some time, we arrived on the outskirts of Cumberland, where in places, the trail is virtually in people's backyards. The condition of the trail improved considerably and we began to cruise along as Cumberland appeared in the distance.We finally rode into Cumberland and in so doing bid farewell to the C&O. In the heyday of the canal, men would slowly lead mules along the towpath, burdened with a barge laden with goods. Today, Bob and I finished traversing that same 184.5 mile path, guiding our own Beasts of Burdens.

Monday, August 17, 2009

C&O Canal and GAP Ride - Day 4 - Schoolhouse Kitchen

After leaving the Paw Paw Tunnel, there really wasn't much to see and do, so we did the only thing that a bike tourist can do in that situation, we rode.

We eventually came to the town of "Oldtown", which was our scheduled lunch stop for the day. We took the small bridge across the canal and headed into town.In town we found a jewel of a restaurant, called the "Schoolhouse Kitchen". It was aptly named because it was located in the old school building. The restaurant was sharing the school building with an antique auto restoration shop. There were a couple guys sitting outside the auto shop when we pulled up and what caught our attention was an old car, that was cut in half lengthwise and leaned/mounted against the wall beside them. I guess it was a sign of sorts. As we were locking up our bikes, Bob points at the cut in half car and asked, "does she run good?" The guys were quick on the uptake and responded, "yea - and she gets twice the gas mileage!" I thought that a pretty witty response, that I tend to attribute less to their improvisation and more to the fact that they've probably heard that, less than original, question from practically every bike tourist that pulls up.

We finished securing our bikes and ventured inside the restaurant.The restaurant was located in the old school cafeteria. The decor was institutional, with its painted cinder block walls and linoleum tiled floors. Yet at the same time it was warm and inviting cause it was like being transformed back in time to my grade school days. A time when I used to line up with every other kid in the school, make our way past the hand washing station where we used the pink liquid soap with such a distinct smell that even now, some 40 years later, when I smell it, brings back a plethora of memories.

We chose a table, ordered a cheeseburger and fries and then sat back and looked around. Along each wall was a row of photos depicting every graduating class from the early 1930's to the year 2000. That's when, according to our waitress, they decided to close the school and bus all the kids up to Cumberland. I could tell by the touch of sadness in her voice and the spark of indignation in her eyes, that she won't none too pleased with that decision.

Bob redeemed himself from the ridiculously, predictable question that he asked earlier about the half car and asked our waitress if she was on one of these walls. "Yeah", she chuckled and blushed, then nodded to her left and said "1969". I was unable to keep my superior, analytical mind from performing the complex calculations necessary to ascertain her exact age. However, I did surprise myself in that I possessed the necessary and unfortunately for me, rare discretion to keep from blurting out, "well that means you're 58 years old!!"

Our food came, served on styrofoam plates. The cheeseburgers were awesome, the fries, divine. We savored every bite, as though we wanted this moment to last. We weren't quite ready to let go of our childhood memories and transform back to the present day responsibilities and hassles of being a grown-up. Therefore, I ordered coconut cream pie and Bob got the brownie delight and we enjoyed being school kids a little longer. Yet, just like when we were young, the end of lunchtime bell rings way too soon and we must get on with life. Fortunately, life for Bob and I consisted of riding our bikes for a few days longer and we planned to take full advantage of every mile.

C&O Canal and GAP Ride - Day 4 - Paw Paw Tunnel

We awoke shortly after dawn and took our time lounging around drinking coffee and eating a meager breakfast of honey biscuits and bacon. The contrast between the sweet and salty made for a wonderful explosion of flavor. At this point, I could wax on philosophically, drawing parallels between contrasting flavors and the importance of developing relationships with people who are different from ourselves. However, this is a cycling blog and you don't read it to hear me wax on philosophically, so I'll let that lay and let my readers do with it what they will.

Around mid-morning we bid farewell to our primitive home away from home and hit the trail.

10 miles up the trail we would experience the very impressive, very long, very dark, Paw Paw Tunnel. As we neared the tunnel, the mountains closed in around us and we found ourselves in a narrow gorge that was only wide enough for the trail and the canal. I couldn't help but think about the blood, sweat and tears that went into cutting this pass out of pure rock.Before long we came upon the Paw Paw Tunnel. When we got there and peaked inside we could tell there was another biker already in the tunnel and heading towards us. We waited until he came out, visited with him a bit and then turned on our lights and ventured inside. Since the trail is extremely narrow, its surface kinda rough and the tunnel very dark, we walked and pushed our bikes.

Going in!Somewhere in the middle, I slowed down for a photo op. In the dark I heard Bob yipe in pain and utter an expletive. This due to his pedal running into the back of his leg and drawing blood. Of course all of this was my fault for stopping in front of him in the dark, never mind the fact that we were walking at a snail's pace.Coming Out!Totally cool!!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

C&O Canal and GAP Ride - Day 3 - Roughing It

After leaving Bill's Place, we slowly made our way the final 3 miles to the campground. Tonight we decided to stay at one of the primitive sights along the trail. We ended up picking a sight called "Devil's Alley" which is described as being located in the most remote section of the trail. The campsight was absolutely perfect. It was a nice, large grassy sight just along the edge of the river.After setting up our tent and unburdening our bikes, it was time for a bath. The primitive sights along the C&O Canal trail have the following accommodations:
- clear spot to pitch tent
- picnic table
- hand operated water pump
- porta pottySince the aforementioned list did not include shower/bathing facilities, Bob and I grabbed our bars of soap and ventured into the Potomac. Standing on the bank, the river appears to be leisurely passing by. Standing in it up to your thighs, one realizes just how strong the currents were. We had to brace our feet against rocks and lean into the current just to keep from getting pushed over. As I sat there bathing, I kept a continual eye upstream to preclude any unpleasant encounter with a snake that might happen to be out for a swim. Of course, when a snake skin came skirting nearby, it did not do much to ease my apprehension.As Bob and I fixed dinner (Tuna Casserole and Bannock), we heard shuffling behind us and turning around we saw this:It turns out, later in the evening our furry friend would pay us a visit in search of food, but we cleaned up everything and hung our food in a tree. He would have to go elsewhere for a meal that night.

After dinner, we sat back with beer in hand and relaxed as darkness began to descend. As it did, we were treated to an unexpected light show. Lightning bugs by the hundreds began to lift out of the grass leaving vertical streaks of light in their wake. We sat back and watched them until we were fully enveloped in darkness.

We climbed in the tent and since the sky was clear, we threw off the rain fly so that the screen roof of the tent was the only thing that separated us from the night sky. The stars were so plentiful that they seemed to touch one another. From my vantage point, I imagined that if someone could make their way up there, they could run across the sky just skipping from star to star. The lightning bugs were magnified through the screen and looked like falling stars streaking across the sky. This was the last thing my mind registered before falling asleep.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

C&O Canal and GAP Ride - Day 3 - Fun Dip

As Bob and I lounged around the campsight lazily passing the afternoon away, 3 teenagers pulled up to the hand operated water pump. Judging by the bulging garbage bags tied to their bikes, it was obvious that they were touring the trail.

We went up and visited with them. They were sitting around the hand pump eating Fun Dip - which is various flavored powdered sugar with a candy dip stick that you lick and dip in the sugar, then lick again. I guess that's the teenage version of Power Gels.

They were from Pittsburgh. they started out in Connellsville and were making their way to DC. This was their second year riding the trail. I asked if they were camping and in unison they responded with a resounding NO. They tried that last year and didn't like it. Turns out that it rained pretty heavy and their tent filled with water. Judging by the expression on their faces, I could tell they still bore the emotional scars of that traumatic. I've been there - done that - it ain't no fun.

They were nice kids. After a spell, Bob and I left them to enjoy their Fun Dips in peace. After they left, we went up to the hand pump to fill up our pot for cooking. All around the pump, this is what we saw:To a kid, they left their wrappers laying on the ground. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I wonder what, if anything, this says of today's generation?

Friday, August 14, 2009

C&O Canal and GAP Ride - Day 3 - Keeping Beer Cold

I like to think that this blog is, at times, informational as well as inspirational and entertaining. To that end, I want to make sure I share precious nuggets of knowledge that will be lifesavers for future bicycle tourists. When touring, there are a handful of essentials:
- a bicycle that is in good working order
- some way to carry your gear (panniers, trailer, backpack, whatever)
- food
- water
- and most importantly of all - a way to keep your beer cold.

Over the last 3 days of touring, Bob and I had experimented successfully with various ways of doing just that, keeping that wonderful beverage called beer nice and chilly!

On our first night, the campground staff were kind enough to dig in their trash and find a beat up, broken, filthy styrofoam cooler. It wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing apparatus you've ever set your eyes on, but it was functional. Functional = contains and insulates ice = keeps beer cold. A formula for success.

On our second night, since were staying in a cabin, we simply lined the trash can with a clean trash bag, placed the beers in the bottom and dumped the ice on top. Once again - we enjoyed cold beer throughout the evening.

On our third night, we hit on a method that I think is a jewel for bicycle tourers. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to present to you the ultimate bicycle tourist beer cooler. Let's affectionately call "Paul's Gift to Mankind".

Step 1: Empty all the stuff from your pannier.Step 2: Line the pannier with a large ziploc bagStep 3: Lovingly place beer in bottom of bag.Step 4: Dump ice on top.Step 5: Close the ziploc bag and zip the pannier shut.Step 6 - 11: Drink ice cold beer at your leisure.