Thursday, October 29, 2009

C & O Cumberland to Hancock 8

This is Lock 32 along the C & O and provides an idea of how narrow the boats had to be to pass thru these canals.

I climbed down into an area of the canal that did not have standing water to get a pic of a lock.

This is Lock 32 and the log house that must have served as a residence for the lock keeper.

I ran into my blue buddy one last time as I rode along the canal. He/she and I met about 10 times during the day. It seemed like every time right after I snapped a pic he/she would take off east and wait on me down the line.
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C & O Cumberland to Hancock 7

The canal had some spots that were a lot wider than usual. This was one of those spots with some unique looking ducks on the far shore. These were different than the regular ducks i have seen so far. They might be wood cocks --I need to look them up.
It may be worth it to enlarge the pic to take a peek yourself.

Closer look at those ducks.

Another look at the Potomac River which is never very far away from the canal.

Just another typical scene that seem to come along very often as you ride along--wonderful stuff.
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C & O Cumberland to Hancock 6

The scenery along the C & O was mostly trees for a long while and it was tough to see very far beyond them but there were sections where it opened up to beautiful country scenes. What caught my attention about this farm was the 2 flags on the right. When I got closer I learned why they were there.

There is a small well kept cemetary about 100 yards off the path. It is dedicated to a Confederate civil war soldier . I have seen several references to the Confederacy in Maryland and it is evident that although Maryland was considered a Union state there must have been a good many Southern sympathizers there.
The guy buried in this grave was born on the farm in above pic--fought in the Civil war for the South--returned home--married and lived til 1916.

It is coming across neat things like this that makes a trip like this very special.

this tells the story of the above mentioned fellow.

This was the scene directly to the right (west) of the cemetary. Not sure what those mountains are but it was kinda surprising to see them after looking at tree trunks for the previous 30 miles.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

C & O Cumberland to Hancock 5

This guy kept flying away ahead of me everytime I would get close . This lasted for several miles and I felt like we were buds after awhile.

Another one legged goose. They are very common along the canal. It must have something to do with the stagnant water they stand in.
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C & O Cumberland to Hancock Md 4

Scene along the canal. The Potomac River is less than 100 yards on the right (south).

At several points along the path (heading east)you can see the canal on your left and the Potomac River on the right. This was one of those places that reinforced the feeling that I am one of the luckiest people on the face of the earth. Everyone should be fortunate enough to see this place like I did.

This was the second rider I saw this day and when he got closer I was surprised at the interesting way he was dressed--all in black. The path is narrow here so I got off to one side so he could pass. He was loaded for long range travel , riding fast and would not make eye contact.

Another pic of how the canal curves . The Potomac is very close on the right.
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C & O Cumberland to Hancock 3

I came across several interesting kinds of wild life. This was one of the more unusual specimens. Probably the largest frog I have ever seen. At minimum this is by far the largest head I have ever seen on a frog.

These 2 ducks were strange in that they only had 1 leg each.

This owl was unusual because you just do not see many red owls anywhere. Once the word gets out ,I can imagine all sorts of bird watchers checking this guy out so they can list it in their book of distinctive rare birds observed in the wild.

I am not sure what these soccer blls were doing in this place. There has to be some type of interesting story behind how they got there in the middle of no where.
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C & O Cumberland to Hancock 2

There are many many scenes like this along the route. In my opinion some of the neatest stuff I have seen so far.

It is frustrating in that the camera does not capture the distinctive green that you see so many places along the canal.

I saw only 3 bike other riders on this part of the path. This lady was ahead of me for a mile or so and then she was not there anymore. She sort of disappeared and there were no side paths I could see for her to go. I was thinking that this may be one of those ghost deals you hear about during Halloween time.
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C & O Canal--Cumberland to Hancock Md

A short distance out of Cumberland heading east the canal path gets a little rougher and the remains of the canal are very evident. This section of the C & O seems to be less traveled than what I have seen so far There are long stretches of stagnant water with a lot of overgrown foliage --it is very quiet and beautiful. I stopped several times to just look at it all in detail and absorb the scenes. This is something you do not see every day of the week.

This type of pic may look kinda ugly but I found it fascinating.

I kept thinking of how this must have looked and sounded when the C & O canal was in its heyday. Horses, boats, people all making their own distinctive noises.

I climbed up on an abandoned bridge and took this pic facing west. The actual towpath runs on the southside of the canal.
From lo king at these pics one might get the impression that the canal ran relatively in a straight line, but that is not the case. It basically runs close to the course of the Potomac river as it meanders through the mountians towards Washington DC.
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cumberland Md 3

As you ride the C & O route eastern out of Cumberland there is a nice park that has a canal boat on display. My bike is parked on the walkway behind the boat to provide a kind of size prespective. It was longer than I expected and pretty narrow but afrter seeing the size of the actual canl locks down the trail it all made a lot more sense.

This is a preserved section of the C & O canal and path looking west back into Cumberland.You can see that fountain that Ned and I posed with outside the visitors center in the distance under the overpass.

There were huge flocks of geese landing nearby in a water area I could not see but could hear a lot of goose noises going on.
This was a lucky shot because the camera I use is pretty simple and it took a few tries to figure out how to get the camera moving with the flock and keep it in focus.
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Cumberland Md 2

The bike path runs along the original C&O route thru a scenic section of Cumberland . A great deal of it is paved with bricks. Along the route is a big bike shop who's owner we met at breakfast in Frostburg earlier that morning. It turnss out he was quoted in that USA Today article that we read in Coraopolis on theday we started the trip.

This is a bike that was being entered in a local art contest. Besides the bike being painted there was a matching helmet, water bottle and riding jersey that went with it.

There is a huge information center in this area that details area history as well as the inside scoop on the C&O Canal. This is Ned standing besides a pretty big fountain out side the viscenter. That is the fountain on the left.
BTW --please note that fashionable sweatshirt ned is wearing. he happened to leave it in my van so it is now that fashionable sweat shirt that Ned used to own. I have been wearing it a great deal lately as I work on the farm, cleaning cow poop out of the stables. I did not want to smell up any of my work clothes on a job like this and ned's former sweat shirt fits me like a glove.

Speaking of Ned I want to discuss my experiences with having a sag wagon on a cross country bike trip like this. It was my first experiences having somebody in a vehicle, carrying my stuff, mirroring my route and meeting me at the end of the day , and sometimes at designated spots along the way. I have talked to many bikers who will not go long distances w/o a sag wagon because they do not want to carry all the extra weight and have to mess around with finding a place to sleep/camp in the evenings. All the biker has to do is focus on riding.

My 2 experiences with having a sag wagon on any trip has been limited to having Miss Sassy (Monica) meet me in Nebraska for the week long Ragbrai trip across Iowa, and brother in law Ned driving me to the GAP trailhed in Coraopolis Pa.with the plan of accompanying me along the GAP into Washington DC.

To be honest if I have my druthers I have decided that I am not a sag wagon rider. I prefer to be self contained , carrying a tent and enough food/drink so that I can travel at my own pace and not have to worry about having a schedule to meet someone at a designated spot . I like this even though it means lugging more weight but that is offset by being able to stop anywhere for as long as I want . There is so much cool stuff to check out and wonderful people to talk to that I want to do as much as that as possible. I feel that there is no guarantee that I will ever be able to do something like this again so I want to absorb as much as possible when I can. Being on a schedule, no matter how loose , is restricting.
With Miss Sassy and the RAGBRAI sag there were no options--it was understood from the gitgo that sagging the Ragbrai was part of the overall package. I guess there was also no other option than having a sag wagon for the end of the trip. After the crash the only way Miss Sassy would let me ride my bike out of the drive way was with a sag.

All that being said it is only natural to compare my 2 sag wagon experiences with Miss Sassy and Ned. As I rode my bike along at 12 mph thinking of things to contemplate I pondered my 2 different sag wagoning.
To be honest there are some similarities --both involved having vans driven by relatives carrying my stuff so I was riding free. That part was cool.
There are a bunch of differences--some of which I just can not put in writing because of the legal ramifications.
Some of the ones I can talk about are the following:

Listening to books on tape/CD--Ned and I both really like listening to a good book that has mystery, adventure, murder and sex involved. As mentioned before the Worch Memorial Library has proven to be a great source of such books. The miles just roll by and everything is macho. It does not get much better than cruising along listening to Louis L'amour speak on the Sackett brothers with little or no Ned/Tony conversation . We are both lost in our own thoughts unless we stop the CD to discuss some interesting portion of the story . This is great old fat guy stuff.

With Miss Sassy it is a different story. Listening to books is a non starter. So is any music I like(Doowop-oldie country-Zydeco)--if there is any music it is stuff Sassy is into and as I write this none of it is memorble enough to recall/list any of the songs or artists.
What mostly happens is that we "talk" (meaningfull dialogue) because riding in a enclosed vehicle is a great place to share quality time w/o interuptions. Now I like this as much as anyone especially with Miss Sassy but there are limits --after 50-60 miles I feel we have covered about any meaningful topic pretty well, even if we have not seen each other for 2 months like before Ragbrai.
Another endearing Miss Sassy tendency is to slow down and check out any garage sale sign stuck up along the route. This is kinda nice when we are just moseying alone. But sometimes that is not the case and you just want to keep the momentum of the van moving. In c ases like this I employ my BB gun strategy which has worked pretty well over the years. Youe see ,I have had this dream of finding a nice used cheap BB gun on the block at one of these deals. Miss Sassy on the other hand is very anti gun of any kind--including BB guns. So when I am in the mood to keep moving forward and Miss Sassy sees a garage sale sign and starts to slow down I say something like "Oh that looks like a great garage sale, let's stop, I bet they will have a cool BB gun for sale there". Many times this ploy has worked (or at least Miss Sassy let's me think it works).

Both Miss Sassy and Ned are excellent drivers and super at finding good places to rest for the night, but again there is a big difference. Miss Sassy needs rooms with all the regular stuff plus fancy extra frills like soap-toilet paper-working sinks-curtains on the windows-clean sheets and floors that your bare feet do not stick to when walking across them. These extras are nice but I am a cost conscious traveler and it is tough to feel comfortable when you are paying an extra $15 for these luxeries. Ned on the other hand subscribes to my idea of a basic motel room. Bed-toilet --working exhaust fan in bathroom--- TV with a working remote--nearby pizza place.

Another big difference is what happens when we get settled into that room for the night. Like all sag wagon drivers both Sassy and Ned do the basics--have the ice bucket full waiting--wash my socks and underwear in the sink--fluff my pillow--warm up the toilet seat (if it is chilly).

Also both are very good at rubbing my feet with scented oil after I get settled down but unlike Sassy Ned just refuses to work his way up past my feet unless I pay him extra, which I refuse to do.

Other than what I have just described there are not many other major differences between the sagwagoning between Miss Sassy and Ned (that I can discuss in public). As I think about it I can say that although I prefer riding self contained , having a sag wagon is not all bad, especially when the saggers are Miss Sassy and ned, although both have very distinctive and different strong points.

One of the things that made the C&O canal workable was the horses used to pull the barges/boats thru the waterway. It seems that many of the cargo boats had an area for extra horses which were interchanged regularly to keep fresh legs working.

This me standing near a statue of a tow horse and its handler. That is me on the left with my hand on the working part of the horse.

There is a neat looking restaurant beside the C&O bike route that was closed when I rode by. Definitely a place to check out somewhere down the line.
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Cumberland Md.

In my opinion Cumberland Md is the highlight town on the GAP. This the bike path rolling into town between the railroad and a concrete river.
There is a lot of history here because for many years in USA early history Cumberland was considered on the edge of the great uncharted west. It was the where about every traveler heading west took off from.

A good pic looking from the bike path in Cumberland. The artwork was something that needed to be checked out carefully because there was so much being depicted. The cool thing about this spot is the homeless lady sitting under the awning. We started talking and I stayed for an hour. I did not get her name but she was one of the most interesting people I have spoken to the entire trip. She was like a tour guide for Cumberland and the surrounding area. Lot of details about early settlers as well a lot of the civil war history. She was very knowledgeable about the National Road that started here and ran into Ohio.

She told me about an trip she made to Ohio this past summer to a country music concert that was very interesting. We discussed various country music styles .I really wanted to stay longer but I knew Ned would be waiting for me at checkpoint down the road and because I knew there was no cell service I c oule not let him know not to wait on me. I will be driving this way again and I will be stopping at this spot hoping to see this gal again

There is a great fountain near downtown Cumberland that is worth checking out. Besides the visual pleasantness the sound it made was very cool. One of those spots that you just stop and absorb for awhile.

This is the entrance to a closed to vehicles section of downtown. This is very quaint area and a wonderfulplace to mosey along checking out the shops and the cool displays in the windows.
I have heard stories about a neat celebration that is held in this area every New Years Eve. Apparently there are great crowds, music and a ball drop ala New York City.
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