#NoWrongPlan awoke to a chilly morning. My food bag survived…..amazingly. There were reports of large animals in camp during the night. Upon further investigation, It turned out to be a rare and dangerous animal known as a cow.
As we prepared our breakfast, the Anti-Meth Man came over to our campsite primarily because we had commandeered the only picnic table in the whole campsite. We were happy to share. The Anti-Meth Man came over with his single bag of stuff. He slowly unpacked with precision. Every ingredient, piece of cookware, and utensil had its place. There was no wasted movement. No reason to return to his tent for something he forgot. The Anti-Meth Man was a camping machine. The Anti-Meth can light his campfire by simply grinding his teeth together. He only consumes organically raised meat he has killed himself. Wait, does that make sense? Probably not.
He was the exact popular opposite of The Meth Man. Measured, planned, and prepared versus un…..pretty much everything.
As we sat down to our respective breakfasts, he told us about all the miles he had logged over the last 15 years or so. On this trip he was through hiking the C&O Canal with an average over 20 miles per day. Think about that for a minute. While the terrain is fairly easy, he was still carrying a fully loaded pack over 20 miles each day. RESPECT. That’s all I got.
I consumed my oatmeal, packed, and we set sail around 8 AM. I need to give a huge thanks to Kevin for bringing along his AeroPress for coffee making duties. It was the best camp coffee I have ever had. In fact it was so good, I have one at home now.
At over halfway through the trip our legs and butts were starting to feel it a bit. Our pace started out slowly leaving The Anti-Meth Man in dust. He may have been awesome but he could not run at 14 mph, although I bet he could if he tried. It was a relatively cold morning as we all grabbed our extra layers. Our slowness was lucky because there were rabbits EVERYWHERE. We must have been ridding through a protected rabbit breeding ground because they were dozens of them crossing the trail in front of us. We managed to avoid any fatalities.
Before too long, we reached the Paw Paw Tunnel. The Paw Paw Tunnel is 3,118 feet long. It was originally built to bypass a 6 miles stretch of switchbacks known as the Paw Paw Bends in 1850.
The tunnel is unlit which means it’s scary. Combined with the muddy conditions and very narrow trail which drops off into the water below, we walked our bikes via our headlights through the dark, dampness.
We rode the rest of the morning through wild flowers and river views soaking in all the scenery we could. John had been talking about stopping in Little Orleans to eat lunch at Bill’s Place. On a previous trip to this area he had missed his shot but this time he would be successful. Except #NoWrongPlan had overestimated our directional abilities.
We had previously agreed to turn off the C&O to take the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT). This trail is a paved oasis which parallels the C&O Canal for the most part. Aside from technically not riding the whole C&O, there is no down side to taking this diversion especially if you plan to stop in Hancock. Plus, my ass literally wrote me a “thank you” note.
Combined with fatigue and hunger we somehow missed the turnoff for Little Orleans. When we finally realized what we had done it would have required a 5 mile backtrack. John was heartbroken….again. He had now missed out on eating at Bill’s Place…..twice. However, I suspect this is just the excuse John’s need to take another trip in this area. We had ridden past the noon hour and had to eat soon. #NoWrongPlan was running on fumes.
We lumped into Hancock, MD. We stopped at the C&O Bicycle Shop/bunkhouse where I added some air to my rear tire. I had considered this bunkhouse as a potential overnight stop. I am glad I didn’t. It was dirty with outdoor bunks which reminded me of Guantanamo Bay more than it did a vacation spot. I’d much rather camp.
The owners of the bike shop pointed us toward a favorite greasy spoon called the Tri-Angle Restaurant about a mile way. The Tri-angle was really a bar but sometimes bars like this make some of the best food for groups of hungry cyclists. We took our seats at the bar promptly ordering burgers, cheese fries, and large beers as we watched the last news about the Amtrak derailment on CNN. Man, did we need to eat. The food tasted delicious. I am not sure if it truly was delicious or if I was that hungry. John’s recollection of the food on his blog, A Few Spokes Shy of a Wheel, was not as complementary. Either way, it was what I needed. Happily feed we ordered another large beer..you know…for dessert.
In hindsight, ordering that second beer was tempting fate. Leaving the Tri-Angle I could feel the slight buzz as we rode off. I wasn’t to concerned since it would burn off quickly and we were riding a trail without cars. DON”T DRINK AND RIDE. However, I had not considered another concern: mechanical failure. We found a shortcut back to the WMRT which required my Vaya to channel it’s inner mountain bike down a gravelly hillside. After successfully negotiating the hill and getting back on pavement, BOOM!!!!!! BUZZ KILL.
My rear tire had blow out. If you want to be annoyed, then have lunch, two beers and be forced to fix a flat tire. BUZZ. KILL. At this point, the rear tire, which was previously cut and booted, felt sort of fragile and worn. After all, it did have almost 4,000 miles on it. For reliability purposes, I decided to swap it out for one of the new tires I was carrying. The old tire found the next trash can. Despite my previous beverage consumption, I was able to fix the flat and reassemble my bike fairly quickly.
With my slight buzz now gone, we finished off the pavement of WMRT and got reacquainted with the C&O. Ah yes, I remember how the gravel feels under my tires. By this time, it was late in the afternoon and we were considering our camping options. The original plan was to camp at Fort Frederick State Park. As we got there we encountered a C&O Canal trail volunteer on a recumbent bike. John, as a person with the same recumbent bike illness, hit it off with the volunteer instantly. The gentlemen recommended we continue down the trail 5 more miles to the next hiker/biker camp. The state park, which is accessible by car, can have issues with parties and noise which we wanted to avoid. After all, we are old and need our beauty sleep.
We coasted into the North Mountain Hiker/Biker Camp at Mile Marker 110 completely spent after a 60 plus mile day. It had been a satisfying but long day in the saddle. John and I pitched our tents while Kevin comically setup his hammock between two tree along a steep hill we were sure he would fall out and tumble downward from.
Meth Man and The Anti-Meth Man were long gone. But does the Meth Man really ever disappear? I’ll let you know. There was, however, plenty of snoring.