Vermont to DC via Blue Ridge Parkway

 

Fall 2011

 

Denis Kertz, ©2011

 


Day 0: Sun, Sep 04, 2011 – Naperville, IL to Burlington, VT

My friend Dave picked me up and drove me to O'Hare Airport for my 9:45 am flight on Jet Blue Airlines to Burlington, VT.  The last 2 years I used Amtrak to ship my bike to my destination but Burlington doesn’t have Amtrak baggage service so that wasn't an option this year.  I considered shipping via UPS or FedEx but the oversized bike box would have cost $80 more than the $50 Jet Blue charged to take a bike so I brought my bike along on the flight.  I had to carry my bike box to the x-ray machine but the box was too large so it had to be inspected manually.  That meant TSA had to open the box and I watched carefully to make sure they didn't bungle the job.  In fact, the inspector had difficulty figuring out how to open the box so it was a good thing I was nearby and could tell him, nicely of course, how to do that.

 

There was a long line waiting to get through the inspection line at the terminal.  Although I had gotten to the airport almost 2 hours in advance, by the time I watched the bike box inspection and made it through the terminal check it was almost time to board.  There wasn't a non-stop flight to Burlington so I had to fly to New York’s JFK first and then to Burlington.  The JFK segment was packed but the Burlington connection was only about half full.  Although the Burlington connection was a little late I still made it to Burlington slightly ahead of schedule.

 

When I got to Burlington I had to decide whether to set up my bike at the airport for the short 4 mile ride to the Courtyard where I had a free night courtesy of Marriott Reward points or take a taxi.  In the end I opted for the convenience of a taxi so that I would have a little more time to see Burlington during the daylight but that convenience cost me $20 which seemed rather steep for a 4 mile taxi ride.

 

It was not a great weather day with foggy humid weather.  We flew in over Lake Champlain and approached the airport from the north side but it was too foggy for any good views and the Adirondacks weren't viewable at all.  The same was true from the ground.

 

When I got checked into the Courtyard I unpacked the bike to make sure there were no surprises and I did a partial assembly, putting the pedals, seat, and handlebar back together.  Then I walked downtown to get a bite to eat.  Along the way I passed a Borders which was going out of business and had books off for 50% and more.  I found a $15 book that I got for a little less than $5 for reading material.

 

After that I walked down Church Street, which was a pedestrian mall with a number of eateries along the way.  I stopped at the Sky Burger which was supposed to be fairly decent but it was closed on Sundays.  So I picked up a beer and burger at the pub next door.

 

Back at the ranch I assembled the rest of my bike and repacked my panniers for travel.  This took about an hour and a half.  Then I checked the weather forecast for the Burlington area and was dismayed to see rain was predicted for tomorrow, not a favorable start for the tour.

 

Day 1: Mon, Sep 05, 2011 - Burlington, VT – rain day

When I got up it was raining and the prediction was for rain all day and maybe the next 2 days as well, a rather depressing thought.  The bad weather was a result of humidity form Tropical Storm Lee from the south meeting up with a cold front from the west.  This was particularly bad news for Vermont and other areas that were hard hit by Hurricane Irene, not to mention cyclists trying to get started on their tour.

 

It didn't take a lot of thinking for me to convince myself that I didn't want to hit the road today.  My general rule is if it is already raining and rain is predicted to continue that's a good case for a layover day.  Fortunately, I was able to get on the Marriott Rewards website and get a second night's stay at this Courtyard.  I was a little concerned that I might have to move to a different room.  I had gotten checked into a room upgrade which I didn't particularly need – I didn't need the extra space or the bathtub – but I was able to stay in the same rom.

 

The good news is my layover day was in Burlington and I was only about a 10 minute walk from the pedestrian mall.  It was only drizzling when I walked to the Penny Cluse for breakfast, based on a friend's recommendation.  They didn't open until 8am and there was a bit of a line waiting to get in at 8 but that wasn't a problem.  I had buckwheat pancakes which were fine.  During my breakfast the drizzle turned into a steady rain which made my layover decision seem wise.

 

After spending some time in my room I left again near noon to walk downtown.  At that point the weather wasn't looking too bad and there were just a few sprinkles.  Just when I was thinking that maybe my rain day decision was perhaps premature it started pouring and lasted for quite a while.  I spent some time browsing in an outdoor gear store and then decided to head across the street to a coffee shop, which a number of other folks had the same idea.  I managed to find a spot at a counter and spent a while reading and watching folks navigate through the rain.

 

Then I walked to a used bookstore and found the prices were actually higher than the Borders with its 50-70% discounts so I browsed through the Borders again and picked up another book, under the theory it's always good to have a second book waiting to be read even though I hadn't started on the first book yet.

 

By mid-afternoon the rain changed to a light drizzle.  I wandered around looking for a place to eat and tried the Vermont Pub & Brewery which was okay.  When I walked to breakfast I found a grocery store so I headed there and did my first grocery shopping of the trip.  After that I retired to my room and did a little more packing.  I always find it hard to pack the last few items so I put them off until the morning when I would finally be forced to put them somewhere even if I didn't know where they would best fit.


Day 2: Tue, Sep 06, 2011 - Burlington, VT to Keeseville, NY [62.7, 5:57:13, 10.5 mph, 0']

It was raining when I got up around 6:30.  When I checked the weather radar there was a big green area but it was moving northeast and its western edge was almost past Burlington so I was confident the weather would be okay by the time I ate breakfast and packed up.

 

I ate breakfast at the Courtyard and took advantage of their breakfast buffet.  Then I packed the rest of my stuff and was off by 8:30 with no rain.  My rear brake was a little tight and rubbing the rear rim occasionally so I loosened the rear brake a little.  Then my heel was hitting my rear pannier.  After thinking a few minutes I realized I had positioned my rear panniers as far forward as possible so I moved them as far back as possible and gave my heel the clearance it needed.

 

Burlington has a bike path that passed right by the lakefront that was a rail-trail conversion of the Island Line Trail.  This former railroad line was built in 1900 to connect the Great Lakes with the New England seacoast by passing through the islands of Lake Champlain.  It ceased operation in 1963 and was eventually converted to a rail-trail.  It was just a matter of heading one block south and then west a block and I was on this path shared with other users, most notably joggers in the morning.

 

It was an easy 8 mile ride up the trail to Colchester Point.  From there the path extended out over the lake to Grand Isle via a causeway that, unfortunately, had a 200 foot gap.  During the summer there is a ferry to allow cyclists to manage this gap but that was not an option now.  So I rode along the edge of Mallets Bay heading east to pick up Hwy 2 that would take me across to Grand Isle at the southeast corner.  I reached this entrance to Grand Isle after 25 miles.

 

Riding across the causeway on Hwy 2 to Grand Isle was very windy.  As soon as I got to Grand Isle I took the first left to get off the main road and headed south and then west to pick up the West Shore Road, a hard packed gravel road that was almost as smooth as asphalt.  It was an easy ride through some farms and along some beaches.  When West Shore Road ended it joined with 314 that took me a couple miles to the ferry to Cumberland Head on the New York state side.  It cost $4.90 to ride one-way on the ferry.  A ferry was just leaving as I paid my fee but another ferry was landing so it was only about 15 minutes before I was underway for the 20 minute ride across Lake Champlain.  There were 3 ferries in operation and they were basically running as fast as they could.  Each ferry handled about 20 cars and 2 long trucks.

 

From the ferry landing I rode west until I picked up Hwy 9 into Plattsburgh where I found a Chamber of Commerce with maps and information.  I got a county map of the area and was warned that some roads in the Keeseville/Wilmington area had been washed out during the Hurricane Irene deluge so I was advised to stay on the main roads which were supposed to be fine for biking.

 

I followed a bicycle route through town, passing a huge statue of Samuel Champlain along the lake, before rejoining Hwy 9 which had a good shoulder.  At that point it was 8 miles to Keeseville, my planned destination and I started paying attention to possible campsites and motels.  The big question was the weather which was predicted for rain for tomorrow.  I wasn't sure when the rain would come and whether I might have another layover day.

 

Just outside Keeseville I stopped briefly at the Ausable Chasm, a sandstone gorge.  There were a couple of moderately steep hills the last few miles to Keeseville, a small town of 1815 people.  There wasn't much in town but there were a couple of motels.  I couldn't find anyone at what I figured was the cheapest motel and a motel occupant said she didn't think there were any vacancies.  So I stopped at the motel next door and got a room for $55, knowing I could well be spending an extra night there.

 

There was a nearby restaurant that I walked to after cleaning up.  It wasn't much but it had some warm food and that promised to keep me alive to ride another day.

 

This day turned out to be longer than I expected.  I thought it was only going to be something in the 40s but other than for a few last minute hills into Keeseville it was an easy route.  Had I wanted to I could have ended up in Keeseville by riding less than 10 miles.  There was a ferry from Burlington to Port Kent which was only about 5 miles from Keeseville.  But that wouldn't have been nearly as interesting a ride.


Day 3: Wed, Sep 07, 2011 - Keeseville, NY to Lake Placid, NY [41.0, 4:37:04, 8.9 mph, 2,257']

It was raining lightly when I walked to breakfast.  I expected to layover with the rain prediction so I didn't necessarily need a large breakfast and didn't get one with my order of pancakes.  The newspaper said rain all day and some heavy rain.

 

I slept a little more back at my room and settled in for a long day in my motel, since there wasn't anything to do in Keeseville.  Just before 10am I figured I may as well pay for another day and was surprised to see that it was barely sprinkling.  So I decided I might as well hit the road for a few hours and make it to my next destination Wilmington.  I packed up quickly and left right around 10am.  By this time it wasn't raining at all.  I wore tights, a short sleeve jersey, and my rain jacket and was comfortable in the cool, 60 degree weather.

 

I rode just a short way and picked up 9N.  The road had a good shoulder and followed along the Ausable River through heavy forest.  There were a few road repair areas but riding was smooth otherwise.  It eventually started a little drizzling again but nothing that was uncomfortable.  I stopped for a little snack in Ausable Forks since I didn't have a big breakfast and wasn't sure where I would find food next.

 

There was some climbing along the way to Wilmington, a little less than 600 feet, but nothing hard.  In Jay I picked up 86 and started a fair climb for about a mile.  After about 25 miles, I rode into Wilmington around 12:30 or so.  There wasn't a lot to Wilmington but there were motels.  Wilmington's claim to fame was Whiteface Mountain, one of the High Peaks in the Adirondack Mountains at 4867 feet and is the fifth highest peak in New York State.  It also hosted the alpine skiing for the 1980 Winter Olympics.

 

Most interesting for me was that Whiteface Mountain had a road almost to the top and the top is reputed to provide a panoramic view of the Adirondacks with views to Vermont and even Montreal on really clear days.  This, unfortunately, was not a clear day with low hanging clouds that obscured the peak.  Originally I planned to ride to Wilmington, jettison my gear, and ride my bike to the end of the road and hike to the top.  With the low hanging clouds and uncertain weather for at least another day I had to resign myself to discarding the Whiteface Mountain plan.

 

Instead, I looked towards Lake Placid, another 10 miles away.  There was some more climbing to get to Lake Placid but I realized Lake Placid would be a much better place to get stuck for a day if tomorrow's weather suggested a layover day.  My only concern was getting stuck in a downpour since it was at least another 2 hours of riding.  Even though it was only 10 miles the road climbed 750 feet.

 

As I took the turn to Lake Placid it started drizzling harder and I debated turning around.  But I kept riding and before long the rain eased up.  The shoulder was not as good as earlier but it was okay with the relatively light traffic.  The road followed along the West Branch Ausable River.  In many places the river was rushing and churning against exposed rocks and in one section the river hemmed the road in against the side of a hill and the road had almost no shoulder.  I rode past the High Falls Gorge which would have been worth a stop during good weather.  The road alternated between some modest climbs and some generally flat riding.

 

It was drizzling fairly hard when I rode into Lake Placid.  I found a Visitor Center and got pointed towards the Alpine Air Motel at the other end of town as likely the cheapest motel in town.  Lake Placid's claim to fame is that it hosted the Winter Olympics in both 1932 and 1980.  It is a very touristy area so it had lots of motels and restaurants and the $55 I paid at Alpine Air was probably the best I could do.

 

I was fairly wet when I finally called it a day and checked into my motel around 3:30pm.  There were a couple restaurants within easy walking distance.  I ate at a Howard Johnsons which featured a Shrimp Buffet on Wednesday nights for $10.  It was pretty decent and I got my money's worth.

 

As I retired to my room the real question was when would the weather become decent.  Thursday was still questionable and it looked like things might not really get better until Friday.  Only time would tell.

 

Day 4: Thu, Sep 08, 2011 - Lake Placid, NY to Long Lake, NY [54.0, 5:12:03, 10.4 mph, 2,499']

It was overcast in the morning but it wasn't raining.  There was a Sourdough Cafe nearby and I was sure pancakes would be a good bet there but I was wrong.  My idea of sourdough pancakes is that they are dense and chewy and these were light and airy and they looked like wheat pancakes.  They tasted fine but there just wasn't much to them and they soaked up syrup like a sponge.  The other bad thing about the cafe was that it didn't open until 8am.

 

When I left town I had to climb a little but then descended a ways on a rather rough shoulder.  It was only about 7 miles to Saranac Lake where I stopped for milk and a second breakfast of cereal to augment my rather meager first breakfast.

 

I left town on Hwy 3, leaving 86 behind, and got an enthusiastic honk from an oncoming motorist.  It was 20 miles to Tupper Lake on a moderately busy road with a wide shoulder.  The traffic was a surprise but probably shouldn't have been since there aren't many through roads in the Adirondacks so traffic is pretty well forced to use a small subset of roads.  There were a couple views of Saranac Lake along the way but mostly it was a road through the forest, a pleasant ride but nothing particularly scenic.  There were some short hills but nothing particularly difficult.

 

Just north of Tupper Lake Hwy 3 merged with Hwy 30 and I rode that into town right around noon.  I stopped at a little park overlooking Tupper Lake at the south end of town for a snack and met up with another bicyclist.  He was riding a mountain bike with a day pack on his back and a bicycle wheel strapped to the top of his trailer that he was taking in for repair.  He was a local who was interested in bicycle touring and I passed on some suggestions.

 

By this time the weather was looking pretty nice with some clouds and some sun and the temps around 70F.  About this time I realized if I had stayed in my motel in Keeseville yesterday I would most likely have been able to follow up on my plans to ride to the top of Whiteface Mountain today.  But that decision was made yesterday when they were still predicting rain for today.  Sigh.

 

There were several views of Tupper Lake along the road and several views of small lakes along the roadside so the scenery was more interesting than the morning ride.  It was another 20 miles from Tupper Lake to Long Lake and the miles went by fairly quickly with no difficult climbs.  What climbs there were tended to be short and moderate climbs.

 

I reach Long Lake around 3pm.  Just outside town was a state park that I hoped was a camping spot but I checked it out and discovered it was closed.  Maybe it was closed because it was after Labor Day or perhaps due to rain damage.  That put me in a quandary because there didn't appear to be any other camping.  There was another campground 5 miles off the road but I was reluctant to wander that far off the route and fearful I would find it closed too.  So I ended up at another motel in town, for another $50.  At this point I would have expected to be spending my third night in a row in a tent and instead it was my third night in a row in a motel, not counting my initial stay in Burlington.

 

While I was deciding where to stay I was approached by a local who thought I might be a touring cyclist on Adventure Cycling’s Northern Tier route since I had yellow panniers like a cyclist he was following on the Internet.  I was confused when he asked if I was coming from Oregon but then I learned that the Northern Tier route came right through this town.  This guy was also a cyclist and had recently ridden the Southern Tier route with a group of strangers who had formed based on an online invitation.  Turned out these strangers didn’t all get along that well and they eventually split into two groups.  That’s one advantage of touring solo.  You kind of have to get along with and put up with yourself – it’s hard to split yourself into two…

 

The motel was not the greatest although I'm sure it was the least expensive in town.  Based on looks I thought the price might be in the $40s.  The inside didn't look all that great either, certainly not as nice as the last 2 motels.  Then after I took a shower I discovered I couldn't shut the cold water off.  Fortunately, I eventually figured out that the faucet handle was just spinning and I guessed the Phillips screw that held the handle on was loose.  My bicycle multi-tool kit contains a Phillips screwdriver so I was able to use it to tighten the screw and turn the water off.  That was good because I don't know how the proprietor would have handled this situation.  He was an elderly guy and mostly blind so he would have had to call someone.  Then a little later the smoke detector started screaming at me and I thought I was going to have to rip it off the wall.  I don't know what precipitated that but eventually it stopped.

 

I ate at a bar a short walk from my motel since there wasn't much in the way of eating establishments in this town of 850.  I had a small pepperoni pizza which was just about the right size for my appetite.

 

Day 5: Fri, Sep 09, 2011 - Long Lake, NY to Speculator, NY [55.4, 5:38:01, 9.8 mph, 3,610']

I left the motel around 7:00 and rode to a cafe that claimed to serve breakfast but they weren't open.  So I rode across the street to a foodmart for a ham&egg sandwich.  I left town around 7:30 am riding to Blue Mountain, 11 miles away.  It was a fairly short ride with one fairly long climb just before town and I descended to Blue Mountain where folks were setting up for a weekend of some kind of crafts fair along the road.

 

I had another ham&egg sandwich at another food mart because there was nothing else in town for breakfast.  Then I looked to find where the Blue Mountain Fire Tower was that is supposed to give a great view of the surrounding area.  I had thought it was south of town but I learned the trail was at the top of the hill I had descended to get to town.  So I had to climb back up the hill to get to the trail head.

 

I started the trail around 9:30 and I figured it would take maybe a couple of hours since it was only 2 miles long with a significant climb of 1300 feet.  The trail was actually fairly difficult because it was wet and it was a rocky trail.  I thought I might be able to do the climb non-stop but eventually I had to rest about ¾  quarters of the way.  Then the route got tougher as it got steeper and parts of the route was just a slab of rock with some running water that made it somewhat slippery.

 

When I reached the top I climbed the fire tower and had a great panoramic view of the Adirondacks, ringed by mountains in all directions and a number of lakes and Blue Mountain Lake in particular.  The view was well worth the climb.

 

The return trip was fairly difficult because of the wet rocks.  I had to take it very careful at times and even then I managed to slip and fall a couple of times although they were minor falls because I was being very careful.  A number of folks were climbing up as I descended so it was good I had been able to start early and avoid the crowd.

 

By the time I was finished it was 12:30 and the trip had taken long than I expected, about 3 hours.  I rode back to town and stopped at the same foodmart for drink and a pizza slice.

 

Then it was on to Speculator, my goal for the day.  First I rode to Indian Lake another 11 miles where I stopped for another snack.  Then it was another 24 miles to Speculator.  At this point I was a little concerned because I planned to stay at a campground just outside Speculator and I didn't figure to get there until 5 or 5:30 and I was concerned whether it could fill up on a Friday evening.

 

The road continued it’s up and down with not many difficult climbs so I made pretty good time to Speculator and got there just a little before 5pm, a little better than I expected.  I stopped for a quick drink and then headed to the Moffit Beach State Campground just a couple miles away.  I had no problem getting a campsite but it cost $30 ($22 +$5 out state + tax), which was rather excessive.

 

I got a site with a lake view right next to a couple from North Carolina, Earl and Arlene who were there spending a few days fishing.  They invited me to dinner and I got treated to some beer and a hamburger.  So it turned out to be a very good campsite and a pleasant evening although flies were a real pest for some reason and there were some mosquitoes although were less bothersome than the flies.  Fortunately this couple were early risers so I was able to give them my food bag for them to store overnight.

 

Day 6: Sat, Sep 10, 2011 - Speculator, NY to Rome, NY [79.1, 6:48:44, 11.6 mph, 2,091']

My tent was very wet in the morning which was a surprise.  Since it is a single wall tent it does suffer from condensation.  However, when I got up I could see everything was foggy so I presume that caused the wet tent.

 

Earl was already up when I got up at 6:30 as he promised he would be and I retrieved my food bag.  I packed up with a very wet tent that I would have to dry out at some point.  I left my new friends behind around 7:00 and headed back to town to a place that I saw yesterday served breakfast.  I had a pancake sandwich with 2 pretty decent sized pancakes so I was satisfied with breakfast.

 

My goal for the day was Rome and perhaps further.  I left around 8:30 and headed south on Hwy 8.  After I passed Piseco Lake there wasn't much in the way of services.  I could have stopped at a place near the lake but it was only a half hour after breakfast so I rode on.  There was some climbing after about 15 miles but then it was mostly modest descending the rest of the way as I left Adirondack Park.

 

It wasn't until almost 50 miles that a small store finally popped up and I stopped for my second breakfast around 12:30.  This was shortly after I detoured off of Hwy 8 and picked up Hwy 365 that went all the way to Rome.  There were some rough shoulder areas along the way but mostly the shoulder was reasonably wide.  There was one section where a sign declared there was no shoulder for 6 miles which made no sense because there was a shoulder the entire way although this section was a little rough.

 

Traffic picked up as I neared Rome and I rode into town around 2:30 after almost 70 miles.  I could have gone further but I wasn't sure which route I wanted to take.  I hunted around town for either a library or an Internet Cafe and never found anything so I eventually gave up and decided this was the end of the day.  I found an Econo Lodge with a room for $70 with my AARP discount and it included a continental breakfast so it was a little better deal for the money.  I also got a 10% discount for a restaurant across the street that served a good chicken sandwich and salad bar.

 

While I was cleaning up I pitched my wet tent in the parking lot.  It dried out in about 15 minutes in the sun and a little breeze.

 

I spent a good part of the evening researching tomorrow's route which I was undecided on.  My original plan was to ride the Erie Canal to Dewitt and then make my way to Seneca Falls and ride down to Ithaca along Cayuga Lake.  The main problem with this route was it forced me to ride through Syracuse and my trip “advisor”, Andrejs Ozolins, suggested riding through Syracuse would be unpleasant.  As an alternative, he suggested a route from Dewitt to Ithaca that bypassed Cayuga Lake.  One clear advantage of this route was distance.  My original route was riding the two sides of a right triangle and his route was riding the hypotenuse of the right triangle and somewhat shorter.  So I was seriously looking at this route.

 

Day 7: Sun, Sep 11, 2011 - Rome, NY to Cortland, NY [85.1, 8:29:17, 10.0 mph, 2,311']

There wasn't much choice at the motel's continental breakfast.  They had these small waffles so I took two of them, a bagel, and a pastry and that was breakfast.  After packing up I had to get my loaded bicycle down the stairs and I eased the bike down using the brakes.

 

The Erie Canal Route ran from Utica through Rome to Dewitt but the route followed some roads in sections where there wasn't an actual canal route.  I was almost on the route where it passed through Rome and only had to ride a couple blocks to get on Liberty Street heading west until it dead-ended.  Then a couple turns got me on 46 heading west.  In a short distance I rode by the Erie Canal Village.  I didn't expect them to be open at this early hour but I found out they weren't even open on Sunday, which seemed surprising since the weekend would seemed to be the best time to be open.  What I had hoped I might find was a route map but no such luck.

 

I rode just a little further and I was able to get on the actual canal route, a crushed gravel path following along the canal, which was covered with green scum in this area.  This area was where the Erie Canal was first constructed, starting in 1817.  One of the reasons this area was first was because it was part of the “long level”, meaning this area was flat and there was no need to construct any locks.

 

As expected in a level area, this was easy riding and the only thing that would have made it better would have been a paved route.  The crushed gravel surface exacted a penalty of 1-2 mph in exchange for no automobile traffic.  This early section was mostly through trees and in some places the tree coverage was dense enough that it was almost like riding through a tunnel.

 

Later, a section of the route was paved and it was a perfect trail.  Then the route passed through a couple areas where it joined the road for a bit but the signage was good enough that there was never a problem finding the next canal section.

 

What was a problem was finding food.  When I rode through Durhamville I thought I might find something but what I found was food for the soul, in the form of a couple of churches, but nothing for the stomach.  I had to ride somewhat further to Canasota, a town that grew up to support the Erie Canal, before I found anything and then it was just a food mart.

 

Up to this point the canal route was reasonably wide to allow traffic in both directions.  But then the route narrowed in places where the crushed gravel was wide enough only for a single cyclist or pedestrian in one direction.  Then later again it became reasonably wide again.

 

Since this was a Sunday I had worried that the canal route might be crowded and perhaps difficult to travel at a reasonable pace.  That turned out not to be the case.  I didn't see any substantial traffic until after 11am and that could have been because I was getting closer to the western end and closer to the larger population of the Syracuse area.  Then I started seeing some cyclists, some pedestrians, some dog walkers, and then a couple of roller skiers who presumably were trying to stay fit for the upcoming cross country ski season.

 

For the most part this late morning traffic didn't pose any problem.  But I did have one case where two joggers were filling the path so I rang my bell, then announced “on your left”, and all of this caused the two joggers to separate so I rode between them, not the typical expected behavior where they should have moved to the right so I could pass on the left.

 

After a little over 40 miles I reached the end of the tail near DeWitt.  Riding a little further south brought me into DeWitt where I spied a Chase Bank and I stopped for some cash at an ATM where I wouldn't get charged a fee.  Then I grabbed some food and drink because I was only at about the half way mark for the day and the second half would not be flat like the canal path.

 

I started riding on the second half just before 1pm.  My route suggestion was the Jamesville-Apulia Road and the Jamesville Road was conveniently a block from the food mart.  It was a short ride to Jamesville where the road ended and I wasn't sure how to proceed.  There was a reservoir ahead with 91 going down the east side and South St down the west side.  I knew I had to pick up 91 eventually but I was sure it wasn't supposed to be this soon but I figured I wouldn't go wrong picking it up early.

 

The only problem was that 91 started a pretty big climb and I guessed the other side didn't have the big climb.  Then with the aid of my Garmin GPS I discovered the road on the west side was initially called South St but then became Apulia Road and that was what I should have taken.  Fortunately, all was not lost and there was a road that crossed over from 91 to the other side, after I had probably done most of the climbing on 91 already but it at least got me back on track.

 

Apulia Road was a nice road through a valley with some farms and low traffic.  There were several cyclists from the other direction so this appeared to be a regular cyclist route.  It did have some ups and downs but nothing like the climb I experienced on 91.

 

When Apulia Road dead-ended at Apulia, I rode a mile or so east and picked up 91 south to Truxton.  This was another nice road through another valley.  There were some more cyclists coming from the other direction so this also appeared to be a regular cyclist route.  About this time I was dragging somewhat and I didn't expect to find anything in the small town of Truxton but there was a gas food mart.  Problem was it closed at 3pm on Sundays.  However, it had a vending machine outside and I was able to get a cold soda and probably the caffeine from that drink gave me a boost.

 

I could have just ridden down 13 to Cortland but my directions were to follow the river.  I took that to mean to follow the roads on the east side of the river rather than just taking 13.  So I picked up the road to the other side which led me past a number of farms as well as giving a good view of other farms on the other side of the valley.  But I wasn't sure I was going to get that view.  After a couple of miles I hit a section of road that was under repair with gravel.  I suspect it might have been closed on a work day.  Fortunately, this turned out to be a fairly short connector and I picked up pavement again.  Then I almost had a heart attack when I could see some road repair ahead, but that turned out to be a road that split off.  So I was safe and avoided the disaster of having to backtrack and take 13.

 

Other than a couple of manure spots on the road this lesser traveled section was nice cycling with little traffic and nice views.  As I neared Cortland I took a side road that cut across to the other side of the river and I picked up 13 into town.  I had researched Cortland and knew there were two campgrounds that I would pass on the way in.  The first was closed for camping for the weekend for some reason.  The second one was really an RV campground from what I could tell.  They did offer a tent site for $27 which was probably going to be $30 with tax.  So I opted to ride into town to see if I would find something more appealing.

 

It was only another mile into town where I81 passed through and there were the usual high priced motel suspects.  I wandered around some more because I knew there were other places.  Eventually I found a motel just off Main Street that was fairly reasonable at $49.  It was close to a number of eating places but this turned out to be my first Subway meal of the trip.  When I left the Subway it was drizzling which made the motel choice look more appealing than a tent site in an unappealing location.

 

Today was a fairly hard day and the longest day of the trip so far.  The morning was pleasant on the flat, traffic free Erie Canal but the afternoon was fairly challenging after riding 40 miles in the morning.  Tomorrow should be a fairly easy day as Ithaca is the destination and it may only be 30 miles.

 

Day 8: Mon, Sep 12, 2011 - Cortland, NY to Ithaca, NY [27.1, 2:30:29, 10.8 mph, 539']

There was a diner next door where I ate breakfast.  It was an old fashioned diner with a long bar and a grill where the cook cooked.  I had pancakes and ham and it was good.

 

I had less than 30 miles to Ithaca so I was in no hurry to leave and there was also some fog.  I ended up leaving about 8:30.  I was right on a street that led me out of town and connected me with McLean Road.  This road continued on through McLean and took me to Freeville on Fall Creek Road.  All of this was riding through a valley with more farms.  I continued through Freeville on 366 and then picked up Lower Creek Road that cut across to Cayuga Heights and eventually became Hanshaw.  From there I used my GPS to wind my way through Cayuga Heights down into Ithaca.

 

After getting a bite to eat in town I made my way to the public library where I spent some time researching the next part of my trip.  I spent some time along the river south of the library and caught a short nap.  Finally, I called Andrejs to let him know I was in town.  I assumed he would be working but I learned he was retired so I rode to his house.

 

Andrejs is a member of the phred bicycle touring list and made a number of route suggestions through the Adirondacks, through the Syracuse/Ithaca area, and through the Pennsylvania State Bicycle Route G in response to some route queries I made on the touring list during my trip planning.  Apparently, Andrejs felt he had contributed enough (he did) that he ought to at least find out the nature of the bicycle tourist he had advised and graciously invited me to stay at his home while in Ithaca.  Since riding into any sizeable, unknown city is a challenge on a bicycle, his offer was welcomed.  Andrejs was the first phred touring list I ever met in real life but before this trip was over I would meet two more.

 

Of course, we talked about bicycles and bicycle trips.  Then Andrejs took me out on the road to show me a gorge at Robert H Treman State Park.  However, the trail to the gorge was closed so Andrejs took me to Taughannock State Park and its waterfall that is taller than Niagara Falls but not very wide.  On the way back to town we stopped at the Allen H Treman State Marine Park and saw some local rowing crews out on training runs.  (Note: Robert and Allen were brothers and members of a prominent Ithaca family.)

 

Andrejs's wife, Diana, teaches at the Alternative Community School, part of the Ithaca city school system, and had a full day of work including an evening meeting so we met her downtown for a Chinese dinner.  Then we retired back to the house to discuss tomorrow's route.  There was some concern whether the recent rains had damaged any of the roads leading into and through Pennsylvania that would have put a major crimp in my riding plans.  Andrejs had sent out some email inquiries to contacts and there didn't seem to be any problem.  So we settled on a route to Elmira on 13.i


Day 9: Tue, Sep 13, 2011 - Ithaca, NY to Tioga, PA [65.5, 6:53:42, 9.5 mph, 2,817']

I left Andrejs and Diana around 7:30, leaving them to their own breakfast and rode to the Bakery that Andrejs had suggested in response to my query for a good breakfast place.  It was a good choice.  They had a breakfast bar where you loaded up a plate and paid by the weight.  In addition to the usual breakfast food they had very good French toast made out of some kind of wheat bread.

 

I left around 8:30 and headed for Seneca Street which allowed me to get across the Cayuga Inlet and onto 13A that would link me up to 13 and avoid the downtown traffic.  13A didn't have a shoulder for the first couple of miles but traffic behind me was patient.  When it merged with 13 there was a very good wide shoulder.  This was a major route so there was traffic but it was tolerable.

 

There was some significant climbing on 13 as it climbed up one ridge and another ridge later on.  I thought there might not be any services until the Elmira area but there were a couple of well spaced food marts along the way where I stopped.  It became fairly warm quickly so cold drinks were welcome but there was also some headwind that helped keep things cool.

 

Eventually 13 ended near the Elmira area and I needed to find a way to get to 14.  Fortunately I got directions at a food mart right about the point where I figured I would need to head west a little ways but my GPS labeled 14 with a street name so I couldn't be sure which was 14 and directions confirmed what I thought I needed to do.  A little later I needed to turn at a 5-way major intersection but the signs didn't identify 14.  Since I looked confused looking around at the intersection  a woman volunteered directions  and also showed me how to get to a grocery store as I headed south on 14.  The grocery store was huge and I had to wade through all the choices to find what I needed and took 30 minutes or so to shop for only a few things.

 

Then I rode south a little further to link up with 328 but there was a Pennsylvania Ave that paralleled 328 for a ways that I was able to ride and avoid high speed traffic.  Eventually Pennsylvania Ave merged with 328 not too far from the Pennsylvania border.  As I neared the border I had a near heart attack when I saw a Bridge Closed sign.  I thought it might mean the road was closed due to recent flooding but that wasn't the case.

 

328 through Pennsylvania required some more climbing to get over a ridge and connect up with 287.  It formed kind of a J to head south to climb over a ridge and then connect with 287.  At the 328/287 junction I stopped at a food mart for a cold drink and started thinking more about accommodations.  There was an Ives Run CG near Tioga but I got no answer the couple of times I tried calling and that worried me that they were closed due to flooding.

 

But there was really no other camping option so I rode on another 4 miles to Tioga.  I asked around but nobody knew for sure about Ives Run.  Instead at a small restaurant, Me-Ma's Country Kitchen, I asked the owner and his wife about camping in a town park overnight.  They called Kathy, the mayor, and she gave consent to camp at a little memorial park with a gazebo nearby.  So I locked up my bike at the restaurant and ate there and waited for near dark to set up.  I had a really big hamburger that was almost more than I could eat.  Then I washed up a bit in the men's room and headed to the park.  I set up behind the gazebo so it was very likely no one even noticed I was there.

 

So far I liked PA more than NY with its absurd camping costs.  Just one night in PA camping and my camping costs were $0.

 

Day 10: Wed, Sep 14, 2011 - Tioga, PA to Bonnell Flats, PA [78.8, 7:12:55, 10.9 mph, 814']

It wasn't a great night for sleeping.  First, it was too warm.  I laid on top of my sleeping bag most of the night and slipped inside later in the morning but it was still too warm to keep the flap over me.  The other problem was trucks.  They were passing through town all night long.  I guessed they were water trucks involved in fracking.

 

I packed up early and headed for the country kitchen for breakfast.  I had a good breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and ham for a little less than $6.  Easily the best value breakfast so far.

 

As I was leaving town I passed by a white bicycle hanging from a pole that marked the spot where a cyclist was killed in 2008.  A surprising location since it was still in town and you wouldn't think enough speed would have been involved to cause a fatality.  Of course, the problem might have been too much speed for the location.

 

Yesterday as I was casing the town I saw a dog lying in a couch outside a house.  When I stopped to take a photo of his leisurely approach to protecting his property he reluctantly got out of the couch and took a few halting steps toward me.  This morning he was in the same spot – lying in his favorite couch.  I guessed he had his share of chasing cyclists and no longer found it exciting.  Or maybe he used to chase the cyclists that got killed and was still mourning his favorite chase victim.

 

A few miles later I rode by the Hammond Reservoir where there was a turnoff to the Ives Run CG that I thought I might camp at.  There was a sign saying facilities were close.  Obviously the recent rains had caused damage to the recreational facilities.

 

It was 15 miles on 287 to the turnoff on 6.  Just prior to this junction it was possible to get on the Pine Creek Trail but Andrejs had suggested it would be better to wait until Ansonia because the scenery didn't really start until then.  This route I was on was also part of the Pennsylvania State bicycle route G and signs marked the route.  These signs also waited until Ansonia to pick up the Pine Creek Trail.

 

When I got to Ansonia in another 8 miles from this junction I stopped at a small, one-room store for my second breakfast.  The lady running the place said business had really slowed as expected but it would pick up for the fall color changes but then she would pack it in for the winter and head to Arizona.

When I got up the weather was overcast and a little foggy and the local paper predicted some showers.  Now the clouds had dissipated and the sun was shining and it looked like another warm day.

 

After my second breakfast I started on the Pine Creek Trail, a 2% grade, 62-mile rails-to-trails in the Pine Creek Gorge that is sometimes referred to as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.  Formerly this trail was used by the Jersey Shore, Pine Creek & Buffalo Railroad that began operating in 1883.  It carried timbers to sawmills in towns along the gorge and transported coal north to New York State.  The last train passed through in October 1988.

 

When I first started on the trail I stayed to the right like a good citizen and I was not impressed by the trail.  The path was fairly rocky and had some pot holes.  But then I discovered there were really two parts to the trail.  The right most part was like a regular road and the left half of the trail was the real cyclist path.  Once I figure that out the trail was pretty good with its crushed limestone.

 

The area was called the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania which was rather misleading.  It was nothing like the real Grand Canyon.  It was a canyon but its sides were covered with trees and the trail followed Pine Creek for some 50 miles.  It was easy riding on a virtually flat surface with some overall descent for the north-south direction.  It's easy to see that this trail would be a hit with casual cyclists and families.

 

One of the good things about the trail was that it was often shielded from the sun.  First the sun had to be almost overhead to get down into the canyon.  Then on top of that trees often formed a canopy over the trail providing further shelter from the sun.  So riding the trail was cool in more ways than one.

 

My plan for the day was to camp at Bonnell Flats at the southern end of the trail.  However, I discovered that even though camping was free in this primitive camping area you needed a camping permit.  I had a brochure that gave a phone number but I couldn't get my cell phone to call the number for some reason and once I was in the canyon there was no cell coverage.  So when I stopped at Cedar Run Village for a cold soda I tried calling the number from a pay phone and got a message that the number was out of service.

 

So I didn't know what to do about the camping permit.  When I stopped at the Slate Run Village I asked at the store if they knew how to get a permit.  They offered to let me use their phone but came up with the same out-of-service phone number so that was no help.  At that point I figured I would just camp and hope everything would work out.

 

The trail switched sides of the creek a couple of times.  The trail also had a 2-mile section that was shared with vehicles because a section of the road had gotten washed out by the recent rains and vehicles got rerouted on this 2-mile section of trail, although no vehicles showed up while I rode that section.

 

When I got to Waterville which was near Bonnell Flats I stopped for a cold drink at the store.  After I got my drink I thought to ask if they knew how to get a permit.  The young lady at the counter said there was a DNRC building just back up the road and up a hill on a turnoff where they issued all permits.  That was a stroke of luck so I thought about that as I was drinking my drink.  Then I realized it was just past 4:30 and they would probably close at 5:00.  So I stashed my barely started drink inside the store to keep it cold and time trialed up the road.  I found the turnoff and then it was a steep climb to get to the DNRC building but I was in time, I thought, since it was about 4:50.  As I was parking my bike a guy was leaving the building and walking to his car.  He saw me and asked what I needed and I said a permit.  So he graciously re-entered the building and issued the permit.  Very fortuitous timing.

 

I was relieved to be set for camping.  I cruised back down the hill and rode back to the store and finished my drink.  It was about another 4 miles to Bonnell Flats and then I had to find my assigned camp spot.  It was quickly clear that mosquitoes were going to be everywhere with the lush vegetation around.  So I threw up my tent and dumped my panniers inside.  Then I walked down to the creek and found it was deep enough close to the edge to lay down in the water and clean off.  The water was a little cool but not bad.  Refreshed by this “shower” I headed back to my tent and settled in for the night.

 

Day 11: Sun, Sep 15, 2011 - Bonnell Flats, PA to State College, PA [32.5, 4:52:06, 6.7 mph, 3,871']

It rained during the night.  First it was a little drizzle and then it rained pretty hard for a while.  Eventually it stopped raining and I hoped that was it but no such luck.  It started drizzling again in the morning.  So I packed up in the rain and left around 7am.

 

It was another 7 miles to the end of the Pine Creek Trail and then I rode into Jersey Shore.  I found a breakfast place and settled in for a long breakfast as a respite from the rain and a chance to study my maps for the day's ride.  The place had all you can eat pancakes for $4 so I went for that.  The first 3 pancakes were a healthy size and very good.  I ordered one more pancake and figured that was enough.  I also studied my maps and found I needed to get to 150.  With my GPS I was eventually able to figure out I needed to retrace my path to the end of the trail and continue on Railroad Street in the opposite direction which would eventually turn into 150.

 

It was still raining when I left the comfort of the breakfast place.  I retraced my route and headed west.  This eventually turned into 150.  I passed through several towns and crossed the river at Lock Haven.  When I reached Mill Mall I picked up 64 south.  The rain had steadily diminished since breakfast so things were looking up.  64 was a busy road with a lot of truck traffic but a decent shoulder so the traffic was just very noisy.  I thought I would be taking 64 all the way to State College but then a PA-G sign showed a turnoff which I took.

 

It was a blessed relief to get off the busy, noisy highway and gain the peace of 445.  Scenery was also much better as the road followed a stream uphill.  For a while the climbing was modest but then the climbing got serious and I had easily the hardest climbing of the trip so far.  The descent was steep and with the wet conditions I kept my speed under control.  When the road terminated I took 192 west.

 

At this point the weather deteriorated.  The rain picked up and the wind was a nasty cross wind.  Fortunately this only lasted about 20 minutes and then the rain gradually diminished.  192 passed between two ridges with large farms lining both sides of the road.  When 192 ended at Centre Hall I kept riding straight on Brush Valley Road brought me to Boalsburg Road and then 322.  I took Business 322 the remaining distance into State College.  Once in town I rode until I found the first food mart along the way.  I called Jeff Caldwell, another member of the bicycle touring list who had invited me to visit, and let him know I was in town.  As luck would have it I was at the Allen Street intersection so I only had to ride Allen St for a short ways where I met Jeff at his work location.

 

We parked my bicycle in Jeff's work room and drove to meet Robert, another touring cyclist.  Robert was a taxi driver and had to go to work shortly so we discussed our various trips as best we could before he had to leave for work.  Robert has toured extensively both in the local northeast area and New Mexico and Colorado.

 

After visiting with Robert we returned to Jeff's work location to retrieve my bicycle and then Jeff gave me a quick tour of the Penn State campus.  Then we rode out to his house, stopped for a beer along the way, and then settled in for the night.  I was able to get a load of wash done and Jeff previewed tomorrow's route.  Interesting, Jeff and his wife had lived in the Chicagoland area and had considered living in Naperville, my home, but instead stayed a little further northwest in St. Charles.

 

Day 12: Fri, Sep 16, 2011 - State College, PA to Martinsburg, PA [54.7, 5:40:59, 9.6 mph, 1,808']

As we decided last night, Jeff and I left for breakfast at 7am.  Jeff knew that I liked pancakes so he took me to the Waffle Shop.  When he first mentioned this place I thought he meant the Waffle House chain which I didn't think would be found this far north.  We had a good breakfast and had some interesting work related conversation since we work in somewhat related wireless tech industries.

 

After breakfast we drove back to Jeff's house and I completed my packing and left right around 9am.  Jeff was a great host and it was nice to be able to just show up in a fairly large town and not have to worry about where to stay or how to get around.  And Jeff was considerate enough to position his house just a couple miles from where I resumed the PA-G route.  I only had to ride downhill and make a couple of turns and I was on 45 heading south.

 

We reviewed this section of the route from State College to Williamsburg last night and the directions made it seem somewhat complicated but it was really quite easy.  I just rode south on 45 until near the intersection with 453, jumped on the Lower Trail, another rails-to-trails conversion for another 10+ miles to Williamsburg and then picked up 866 south to Martinsburg.

 

This was a good riding day with pleasantly cool temperatures and some sun.  45 headed along farming country, some of them Penn State agricultural farms, looking for an opportunity to climb out of the two bordering ridges.  I stopped in the small town of Spruce Creek for my second breakfast.  Spruce Creek had just the essentials needed in every town – a bakery and a tavern.

 

A little further and 45 ended and I picked up the Lower (as in flower) Trail.  This was once the Petersburg Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which operated from 1879 to 1979. Before that it was part of the Pennsylvania Waterway system that connected Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  Since it was formerly a railroad track it was flat on a crushed limestone bed with just a modest climb of about 50 feet over its length.  The canopy of trees provided shade and kept the ride cool.  There were about a half dozen other cyclists and a few walkers on the trail.

 

In Williamsburg I stopped at a foodmart for a slice of pizza and drink.  While there I was “entertained” by a 76-year old gentleman who knew when he had a captive audience.  I was sure I could have gotten his life's history if I had asked.  He talked about his various bicycles and mentioned that he wanted to get a motorcycle but his wife nixed that, which was a good thing.  As I walked my bicycle away from the food mart after eating I thought he was going to follow me but he eventually let me go.

 

From Williamsburg I took 866 south and started the only real climb of the day and it was a substantial climb.  After that the route kept climbing overall but it was somewhat of a roller coaster and nothing particularly difficult.  This was again through farming country and quite scenic.

 

At one point I passed along a short field where corn was being chopped up into silage.  In this case two tractors were involved.  One pulled the corn chopper and the other pulled a wagon with a narrow slot for the corn chopper to shoot into.  That seemed like a poor arrangement but I wanted to get a photo.  So I raced ahead to the end of the field so I could stop and get my camera out and get a photo which I did and then I watched until they reached the end of the field.  At that point it got interesting.  As the first tractor started turning the corner the second driver stopped.  That caused the stream of silage to shoot past the wagon and started swinging towards me.  As I saw this I started riding my bike to avoid the stream when these guys realized what was happening and the first guy stopped the stream.  They were laughing, as I was, when the second guy leaned out and exclaimed that this wasn’t deliberate.  I told them I was going to call the police, which probably wouldn't have been useful in farming country.

 

Then the day almost ended in disaster just a few miles from Martinsburg.  Two vehicles came over a little rise and apparently the trailing vehicle knew the road and was determined to pass as soon as he got over the rise.  Neglecting to notice me or ignoring me he pulled right out into my lane and I was facing an accelerating vehicle.  866 had no shoulder which wasn't really a problem with the light traffic.  In this situation I had no choice but to ride off the shoulder which turned out to be a run out on to a grassy shoulder and nothing difficult.  This all happened so fast I didn't even have time to have a heart attack.  But I wondered if the driver of the passing vehicle realized what a dangerous stunt he pulled and how it could easily have ended in disaster.

 

I reached Martinsburg at 3:30 so I wanted to find some Internet access.  As luck would have it there was a bakery near the corner of the junction where I stopped.  When I found they had Internet access I stopped for a desert and started my PC.  Shortly after 2 guys, Josh and Mike, pulled up in regular bicycles.  This was obviously a regular stop for them on their ride.  I gave them some grief about not having enough weight on their bikes but I also got some useful information on how to get started on the PA-G route tomorrow.

 

I learned earlier from a customer that the town had a municipal park just up the street where I could camp.  So I left around 4:30 to see what I needed to do to set up camp.  This was quite a park with swimming pool, a playground, and even a bowling alley.  The bowling alley looked to be the only thing with any personnel around so I stopped in and inquired about camping.  I eventually learned it would cost me $15 although it wasn't obvious where I should/could camp, where the restroom was, whether there were any showers.  Nevertheless, this was good enough for passing through and I picked a spot near a pavilion with picnic tables.

 

Then I realized my tent was still wet from two nights before.  So I had to set it up to dry it out.  With little sun because of clouds, this took a while so I left my tent to dry and rode the couple blocks to a Subway for dinner.  When I returned my tent still wasn't completely dry but it was going to have to do and I settled in for the night.  On a positive note there didn't seem to be any mosquitoes around so I was able to type up my day's report outside on a picnic table, a big improvement of trying to type away cramped inside my tent.

 

Day 13: Sat, Sep 17, 2011 - Martinsburg, PA to Cumberland, MD [78.2, 7:38:36, 10.2 mph, 3,021']

I slept well in the tent for a change and that's because it was finally cool enough that I actually used my sleeping bag and zipped it up part way.  I packed up and rode the 3 or 4 blocks to the bakery for breakfast.  I had the Almond Crescent French Toast, 4 thick slices that were very good.

 

I left at 8:30.  There was some question about the best way to start riding since there was some question about the safety on 164 heading west.  However, I had queried the two local cyclists yesterday and they didn't think there was any particular problem with 164.  So I started that way and didn't have any problem with traffic and some of that could have been due to the fact it was a Saturday morning.

 

The route headed northwest through Roaring Springs and McKee to get to a gap between two ridges and get on the west side of the ridge that I rode towards.  Then the route picked a road that paralleled 220 so this was a nice rural road with only local traffic and good riding.

 

When I got to Osterburg I stopped for a second breakfast but didn't have any cereal so made do with a quart of chocolate milk, a banana, and a bear claw.  That was good enough to power me up a hard climb on the way to Bedford.  The Bedford area was a mess.  The route dipped south then reversed directions and headed north and along a semi-circle that got it going south again.  I assume this was dictated by some hills and restrictions due to limited access highways.  Somewhere along the way I either took a wrong turn or got directed in the wrong direction.  It took me a while to figure out with the help of my GPS what was going on.  After all the gyrations were done I was heading south on 96 which wasn't that great a road for riding.  It had a decent shoulder but there was enough traffic to be aggravating.

 

Right at 4:00 I left Pennsylvania and entered Maryland.  I stopped at a food mart where a guy warned me to be careful over the next few miles.  I didn't have any problem but the initial road entering Maryland had essentially no shoulder.  The road I was on took me right into downtown Cumberland where I was hoping to catch the Visitor Center before it closed.

 

When I finally reached the Visitor Center they had just closed at 5:00 but when they saw me they let me in.  So I was able to inquire about motels.  I had done a Google search and was surprised to find few motels show up but I assumed there had to be more.  There weren't.  There was a Holiday Inn and Fairfield Inn in the downtown area but I wasn’t about to pay their prices.  The Cumberland Motel was the least expensive and only about 4-5 miles away so I headed for it and got a room for $58.

 

There was a motel/restaurant on the other side of the Interstate that was within reasonable walking distance to I ate there.  They also had WiFi so I used it to book a room at the Fairfield Inn for tomorrow using my Marriott Reward points.  It was interesting that I could still get this WiFi from my motel room but it was password protected so I had to eat at the restaurant to get the password in the first place.

 

Day 14: Sun, Sep 18, 2011 - Cumberland, MD [5.4, 0:42:15, 7.6 mph]

Since I was in no hurry when I got up I decided to do a little bicycle maintenance so I wouldn't have to bother later.  I cleaned up the frame which was mostly due to riding in the rain Thursday morning when I finished the few remaining miles on the Pine Creek Trail.  Then I cleaned my chain and I was good to go.

 

I rode the 4 miles back to downtown looking for a place to have breakfast.  I was sure I would find something downtown but I didn't and ended up settling for a McDonald's.  There was a grocery store near the McDonald's so I did some food shopping but they didn't have much variety so I only picked up a couple things.  I went back to the Visitor Center and got some information on the C&O Canal including a nice map of the trail and a newsletter that had some more detail, particularly about services along the way.

 

I was pleasantly surprised to find the Fairfield Inn was located right on the C&O Canal just a short distance from the Visitor Center.  It was about 9:30 and I was able to check right in.  After that I asked the front desk for a nearby coffee shop and headed there to go over some of my C&O Canal material.  This place turned out to be where I would have gone for breakfast had I known about it.  I lingered for a while boning up on the canal and reading parts of the Sunday papers.

 

I wanted to do some more grocery shopping so I got directions to a better grocery store.  It was a bit of a hike but mainly because I had to walk west a ways to cross the railroad tracks that ran through town and then walk east.  This was a real grocery store and I picked up a number of items since it might be difficult to get anything along the canal route.

 

When I was done grocery shopping I walked back west to get across the tracks and then walked down Baltimore street which was a pedestrian mall.  It was showing life now compared to earlier.  Some vendors had set up their wares at the south end of the street but better yet a band had set up in the middle of the pedestrian mall and were playing the right kind of music – country.  They were a group of 6 older guys playing bass, rhythm guitar, keyboards, fiddle, lead guitar, banjo, and dobro.  They sang mostly gospel tunes, which I guess was appropriate since it was a Sunday, but also performed a couple of instrumentals.  I listened to them for almost an hour before they wrapped up their session with the country anthem Rocky Top and took a break.  There were 20-25 folks listening and I figured all but 2 were older than me.

 

I walked back to the motel and unloaded my groceries and then walked back to the old town section.  In its heyday Cumberland was the second largest city in Maryland, only Baltimore was larger, and now had a population a little over 20,000 although the metro area was about 100,000.  The city size was about half of its heyday.

 

Cumberland was nestled in a valley of surrounding hills.  When I rode back to town in the morning the striking view from a hill vantage point was the number of churches in the town, easily noticed by the number of steeples jutting up into the sky.  In the old town area there were 4 or 5 churches within a few blocks.  They were all impressive brick, mostly red, architecture as were the public buildings like the county courthouse.

 

All of this was set on a hill and as I was walking back I had a nice view looking down the hill and through the pedestrian mall on Baltimore Street.  I hung around for a while trying to get a good photo without cars messing up the view.  As I stood on a corner on the hill, traffic came from my right and turned right to go down the hill.  There was a stop sign at the corner but you would never have known that by watching the traffic pass through.  Usually cars make at least a token effort at slowing down but of the 20-30 cars that passed I only remember a couple actually stopping.  The others drove as if the stop sign was a mere yield sign and didn't even pretend to slow down.

 

I finally caught a gap in the traffic and managed to get a reasonable photo so I walked back towards the motel.  There was a restaurant, the Crabbie Pig, right at the start of the canal route and they had some lunch specials until 4pm so I stopped around 3:30.  I sat down at a table outside on a nice day and watched everybody else get served.  It seemed the waitresses must have thought I had leprosy.  I finally had to go inside and ask if it was possible to get service before I got any service.  I had a fish and shrimp plate with a beer that was good if slow in coming.

 

Back at the motel I paid some bills, sent some emails, and sorted through some of the travel material I had collected so far along the way.  I actually had quite a bit of material that I would have liked to mail home but couldn't on a Sunday.  Nevertheless I gathered the no longer needed travel material so I would be able to ship it home at the first opportunity, perhaps tomorrow in the small town of Hancock.

 


 

Copyright Denis Kertz, 2011. All rights reserved.