This morning I woke to thick fog covering everything. I’d done laundry the night before; everything left out was soaked. No worries, as the campground had a laundry where I’d planned to dry things if that was a problem. Except the machine required quarters. The small laundromat included a change machine, which didn’t work. Fortunately I still had dry gear; it would just mean working to get everything dry across the course of the day.

My metabolism shifted last night. Every tour it takes 4-7 days for my metabolism to gear up. Once it happens, I just need calories. It’s an amazing thing. I covered the first 30 km swiftly before stopping for lunch. As Ed had forecast, while the towpath is still far and above many of the trails I’ve ridden, the conditions worsen the farther from DC I ride.

The only event of the day was the Paw Paw Tunnel, a 3,118 foot tunnel carved for the canal. While I had a light, I walked the tunnel mostly in darkness, only occasionally encountering cyclists headed the opposite direction. Just more fun that way.

I set up camp alone in a hiker biker campground (Irons Mountain) a few miles outside of Cumberland. Again hiding inside my tent from the mosquitoes, I heard someone moving about without having approached from the towpath. Emerging I met Mark. He’d paddled to the site, canoeing the Potomac from Cumberland to DC. He set up camp in a far corner of the site, and I left him alone.

Well after darkness had fully settled in, a commotion arose up on the towpath. I wandered up to find four cyclists setting up at the edge of the towpath (so they wouldn’t bother anyone camping). After chatting with them, they joined me in the field. We talked as they set up. From NYC, they’d rented a truck and hauled everything down to Cumberland. At almost the moment they started down the trail, the front wheel on one of their bicycles collapsed. Fortunately they’d made it to the bicycle shop in town just before it closed, but the repairs caused a later start than they had intended! A fun group of young men on their very first bicycle tour.

I passed along to them several pieces of advice. One, from Ed, to take the Great Maryland Western Trail while it lasted. The second, that if they hadn’t brought enough food for the trip, to make sure to visit the supermarket in Hancock. And finally, while they might have a few mosquito bites now, that would compound as they cycled along a trail of stagnant water for days—be aggressive with repellent!

Today I felt great, which actually helped make my decision to end the trip in Cumberland, instead of carrying on over the Alleghenies to Pittsburgh. I’ve been concerned it’s so easy to stop and I’d make a decision based on the trip being difficult. Now I can see more clearly that’s not the reason. I’ve got a number of reason to not carry on after Cumberland to the Great Allegheny Passage Trail and Pittsburgh. I’ve got a couple of minor crises to deal with at home. The next four nights will drop below 40 degrees. Most importantly, I’m just not interested. When I’m on tour in Europe, every day is a flurry of new experiences and encounters. My destination is Athens, or Ireland, or Rome. Every village has things of interest.

The C&O Trail is almost exactly the same every day. River, towpath, canal. The destination of Pittsburgh? A city the Society for Creative Anachronism fights a war over every year, where the loser gets Pittsburgh. I cycle for where I’m going, not just where I am. And now I know.

With enough signal to text but not much else, I texted back and forth with Marnie. The train on Saturday back to DC had no space left for bicycles, and only one space left on Sunday, so she reserved me a ticket.


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