Biking the GapC&O, Trip Summary

Over our celebration beer at the Pittsburgh Airport we tallied up our week… 372 miles!  Woo-hoo!

What a fun and active trip! I already miss the trains with their rumble and engines and screeching wheels and long whistle blasts; the river with her laughter and burble in the rocks, and the crunch of tires as we rode tree-lined corridors through the woods.  The leaves were just starting to turn and drop onto the trail… in a few weeks Fall will be in full color.

Memories of places stick with us, and perhaps best are the little surprises we didn’t anticipate.  One of my expectations was a week of mostly gas station food and trail mix – not exactly the Mediterranean diet I was just encouraged to take up.  Yet everywhere we visited served amazing meals and hospitality…

… sherry on the balcony reading Civil War history in Shepherdstown…

..actually enjoying roasted Brussels sprouts and wishing there were a few more…

…farm-to-table meals, fresh arugula and beet salads, local produce.  Even at the airport.  Look out Portland…

… homemade chicken pot pie, and a great breakfast to follow in a town whose only businesses were a Dollar General, a gas station and an ice cream store (I know, chicken pot pie is not Mediterranean. Tough! We burned thousands of calories every day).

Part of the fun when staying in B&Bs is getting to know folks, and we enjoyed each of the innkeepers.  Some met us with warm cookies, some met us with a garden hose ready to blast off the trail mud… all were friendly and bike-friendly.  

It was the kind of trip I truly enjoy… something new to see everyday, a built-in challenge that stretches your skills, great company, and time to think and reflect while pedaling along, looking at the scenery.  Nature, in all her inherent beauty, the way it has always been, long before we got ourselves wrapped around the axle with cell phones, high pressure jobs, TV and all the other fixations that pull us into the cocoon rather than Out, out into a world of falling leaves and Mason-Dixon lines and towpaths that were envisioned by George Washington.

I know my European friends might scoff at my interest in such recent history, but I’m calibrated to the American timeline and crossing the path of Founding Father events are rare.  There were many on this trip.

You also learn that some innkeepers like scented things.  Rose and lavender potpourri is a common cliché, but we didn’t find any of that this trip… instead this week I learned the existance of thai dragon fruit dish soap,  peach bodywash, olive oil hand soap, awapuhi (??, sounds like a Hawaiian fish, or a giant sneeze…) ginger shampoo, himilayan pink salt and water lily soap.  Who knew of this world beyond Dial?

Thank you Bruce, for inviting me along.  You did all the research for this trip – scheming out the distances we could travel without collapsing, making the bulk of the arrangements, figuring out historical and cultural excursions, and tolerating the frequent interruptions as I played tourist snapping photos or just general dallying around (a weakly disguised ploy to return circulation).

And thanks especially to our wives Patti and Susan for supporting us and holding down the homestead and all those duties while we’ve been out wandering around.  We hope you shared a bottle of wine and enjoyed not having us underfoot for a bit.

Stats for the trip: 372 trail miles in eight days,  average 46 miles/day, longest day 59.9 miles, followed by three 47+ mile days.  Close to 40 hours on the bike, 2,280 foot vertical rise to cross the Eastern Continental Divide,  and 16,000 calories burned (according to Strava, who I hope is on the low side).

Here are a few last photos looking back along the trail:

Let’s do it again!

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