We have hauled two pannier bags filled with camping gear all across the country … and we have camped once, several states ago. Our plans to camp last night at a state park were modified when a cyclist on a bike trail told us the Ohiopyle campground was several steep miles from the trail, and so we found a room at a bike hostel above a general store instead. This is the do-not-add-extra-miles-to-the-trip phase of bike travel. Also rain was in the forecast and we were happy to be warm and dry overnight.
Most of our morning was spent riding in fog, and it was dramatic and beautiful. The GAP (Great Allegheny Passage) is another rails-to-trails project and it follows the river into the Allegheny mountains. The trail is a mix of paved and crushed rock for 148 miles. (We were feeling tired after finishing the trail in two days, and then met a big blonde muscular fellow at the trail’s end who told us he rode the whole thing in twelve hours on a fixed speed Salsa bike…he ended our after dinner conversation by saying “I need to go find some more to eat.”)
The ride was mostly a long slow climb for hours toward the Continental Divide, and we rode through a couple of tunnels and then had an amazing view of the area. Also props to Pennsylvania for having the best train tunnels for riding through, with motion activated lights.
We crossed from Pittsburgh into Maryland at the Mason Dixon line, and some women cyclists from Charleston who had been riding near us throughout the day took our photo and we took theirs and wished them well.
Then we encountered a couple of guys who were riding in the opposite direction who stopped and and started chatting with us, and immediately admired Dan’s biking shirt, from Toppling Goliath brewery in Decorah. Turns out Herbert was from Dubuque and worked in a brewery there and knows TG and Decorah well, and Dana was from Wisconsin and did as well. They were hilarious and were traveling with a larger group called the Miller Family Band (seemingly like Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters….) and gave us a ton of information about the conditions of the trails that we would be encountering, including some excellent tips about how terrible the C&O path would be out of Cumberland (mud and ruts), where we would find rope swings along the river, and advice about where to stop for food. They also seemed to have a large supply of, mmm, mood enhancing organic products and asked if we needed anything and gave Dan a small jar of moonshine before we said goodbye.
This is about the same point where there was an explosion of cicadas in the trees. There was a loud buzz that came and went in waves for miles and miles and miles and we started to have cicadas flying around us with their dopey cartoony flying patterns. But more importantly, this is where we started to go downhill….and it was glorious. We descended 1700 feet in 25 miles, riding along trains and small towns in the Allegheny mountains and valleys until we got to Cumberland, where we would stay the night.
Somehow I have forgotten to add that my bike had another flat tire today, which I discovered after many miles of really slow riding, around mile 48 (I just thought I was getting tired but it was the tire AGAIN). Dan glumly found me and changed the tube in the rain AGAIN, and we decided to get a new tire in Cumberland. We chatted briefly with this lovely young man who asked Dan for tire changing advice earlier in the day when we got there, and learned he was sleeping in a hammock on his journey to D.C. and was continuing on, and then went into a bike store that did not have the tire size I needed but they did have an Australian shepherd puppy and dog … and they cheered us considerably before we headed out for crabcakes for dinner.