The majority of this tour has been solo with just a couple of days riding with other bike tourists that happened to be heading in the same direction. I was pleasantly surprised when my father, my paw, took up my suggestion to meet and ride the C&O Canal path. One month ago Bill Cherolis traded up from a 2-wheeled recumbent to a three-wheeled, low slung rocket trike. The trike affords the same comfortable position as two wheeled recumbent, but a benefit that many 65 year olds are loathe to admit a need for – stability. Getting started, riding slow, and climbing hills the trike are hugely improved. The only drawback is the width.
Dad chose the C&O Canal over the Great Allegheny Passage. On paper that seems to be a prudent choice to avoid climbing the Eastern Continental Divide, but in practice the National Park Service does a poor job of trail upkeep on the C&O. Instead of firmly packed stone dust, the C&O is a mixture of double track, dirt roads, some single track, and a very little quality stone dust. This is an issue if your bike is wide (a trike) and one wheel is in the middle grassy island of the double track. We upgraded to wide tires on the trike before setting off out of Cumberland and dropped the tire pressure, but it was still much slower and more effort than Dad was expecting. Sixty miles felt more like ninety – and he thought sixty was a sporty target.
Luckily we had dry weather prior to and during the three days of riding. With rain the C&O can turn into a muddy, soft slog. The temperature peaked out on day one at 91, but much cooler on the shady trail. Days two and three were perfect early Fall days in the 60’s and 70’s. After maxing out on the first two days, Dad opted to take a short third day and head into DC early with my Mom. Mom was graciously running sag and meeting up with us for dinner and the hotel stay. We bit off a bit more than Dad was ready for, but he still had a great time (I think). The roughest spot for him was on day 2 when we realized that he’d misheard me and that instead of almost being done for the day at 61 miles, we actually had 7 miles left. Dad discovered his fourth wind.
Along the trail I found oodles of Paw Paw trees. One of the canal tunnels along the route, the Paw Paw tunnel, is aptly named. This time of year these native understory trees have delicate ripening fruit that tastes like a custard-like mix of banana and mango. After picking fruit, I’d hustle up to catch up to Paw (intended) who was dutifully plugging away at the double track. In addition to the several I consumed on trail, I gathered a bag and made a smoothie type dessert while visiting Christopher and Tania for dinner in DC. You won't find this fruit in stores, but all you have to do is take a walk or bike ride to fill up a bag at the right time of year. The fruit is made more special by its season.
We both noticed that the trail signs for near trail and city amenities is sorely lacking on the C&O. It was explained to us by Desert Rose (yes, that’s really her name) at a coffee shop (Desert Rose Café) in Williamsport that the Park Service doesn’t allow any advertisement or signing on park property. The city signs and maps were amazing on the connected GAP trail, and the city economies were noticeably benefiting more from the trial patrons. It blows my mind that the Park Service doesn’t lease a 15’x15’ sign area to each town or chamber of commerce for a welcome sign and map of local businesses. If we’re spending tax dollars on the trail, wouldn’t we want to get a maximum economic benefit to the cities along that trail? Get better at that C&O, it’s embarrassingly short sighted to prohibit signs. This linear park is different from a scenic national park.
|Bike racks are coming to 95 Park Street and BiCi Co!|
BiCi Co. Thoughts – When I was foraging the plentiful Paw Paws, I thought about how BiCi Co. will be a similarly local and sustainable enterprise. Rather than expensive and inappropriate carbon fiber bicycles from China (extractive economy), BiCi Co. will support recycling and reuse of existing bicycles that are already available and under used in the Hartford metro region. Rather than dropping used bikes into the waste stream, whole bikes and parts will be repurposed on Hartford streets as city bikes and useful transportation. We’ll harvest useful parts from bikes we can’t save and hearken to a sustainable and efficient model that respects and values using up something entirely and fixing rather than wasting. We’ll forage among used bikes – providing a legal resource for inexpensive bike parts – and nourish our community both with enhanced mobility and community connections. Local money, spent locally on an environmentally sustainable mode of transport. Bicycle commuters tend to contribute more to their local economies by shopping local and having more disposable income than their car driving peers, great news for Park Street and the Spanish American Merchants Association members. Now we just need more bike racks on Park Street and Sharrows. Center for Latino Progress is creating some momentum by installing bike parking across from the building this Fall! Stay tuned to the BiCi Co. Facebook page for the latest information on our Fall bike programs.
|A contested dam during the Civil War|
|Son of Paw|
|Crossed a lot of viaducts.|
|Recently added cliff side tow path. Amazing to ride!|
|Trail hugging the cliff. Where are all the people?|
|When Dad realized we had 7 more miles to go. Map consulted.|
|Crossing into Harper's Ferry|
|Mom and Dad at Harper's Ferry|
|Dad with John Brown|
|More on John Brown later. A very interesting figure from US History.|
|Great Falls along the C&O just outside of DC. Amazing!|
|The bike infrastructure in DC was off the chain! Hartford take note.|
|Trip out to Mt Vernon with the folks. This looks fun.|
|Faithful Servants, eh? Will discuss more later. White washing slavery.|
|Arlington National Cemetery|
|Finally. Some global leadership on consumerism and global issues from the Catholic Church.|
|Changing a spoke in front of the Hilton. Klein tool worked great.|
|Fuzzy, but great dinner with Whitney, Christopher, and Tania in DC.|