This is a present to myself for somehow, against fairness if not odds, surviving to the 65 milestone. It is a little surprising to me that so many of those I went to school with are no longer around. Many of the ones who have passed away should have outlasted me with ease. And yet….
Compared to many trips that are the subject of online journals, mine barely qualifies as a decent training ride.
The Great Allegheny Passage/C&O Canal Trail, is a rail to trail and tow path to trail bicycle ride of around 350 miles. It begins at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. Now Pittsburgh, but in centuries past the site of both French and English forts that played key roles in the history of the nation I call home. One interesting bit of trivia, is that during Pontiac’s War it was the location of an early use – perhaps the first – of biological warfare.
The seed for this trip was planted in the summer of 2016, near the end of what had been planned as a months long fill-in-the-missing-sections hike of the Appalachian Trail. Near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, the C&O Towpath and the AT are one and the same for a few miles. During those few miles, with pain a part of my being and a steadily decreasing level of energy, I was regularly passed by smiling bicycle riders traveling five times my speed. What they were doing seemed a hell of a lot more enjoyable than what I was doing.
My hike ended the next day on South Mountain, another historically significant piece of real estate, that should have been an easy little stroll. In fact, it is part of “the Maryland challenge”, a tradition where some of the more hardy AT thru-hikers hike the 41 miles of the trail in Maryland in one day. Somewhere on South Mountain that day I realized that my skeletal system was not going to allow a few more months of pounding over rocks and roots.
Riding a bike on the other hand…..
A little over a year after the Revelation on South Mountain, I am sitting in my wood shop, just under two weeks away from another stab at age denial. All of the camping gear, tent, quilt, cooking gear, etc., are left over from last year. I will even have the collapsible trekking poles. One to serve as a tent pole, the other to (almost certainly) assist in getting from horizontal and semi-horizontal positions to vertical. The main difference is that instead of one ultralight backpack, gear will be carried in two waterproof rear panniers, a bag commonly referred to as a rack trunk, and a small double bag that drapes over the bike’s top tube near the front. This last will carry my camera, cell phone, and a few other small items.
One major difference from last year, is that last year it was not possible to really train for what I wanted to do. Mountains in my part of the world are as rare as igloos on the equator. Training for the bike trip has been almost a complete opposite. Almost all the riding I have done has been harder than what I expect to encounter on the trip. On the one day I rode something similar, the rail to trail Cardinal Greenway, I rode 68 miles. I have no plans to have any days that long on the GAP/C&O.