BackgroundTom Snyder and I have been taking a fall weekend bike tour since 2009. They've usually ended up on the slightly to the excessive side of epic. In 2011, we finished day three with 128 miles on the GAP trail and the C&O towpath
For 2013, I tried to dial it back some, and get some better buy-in from Tom on the route.
I used the same bike from 2010 and 2012, a Reynolds 531 Zeus from the mid-70s. I did spend nearly an hour looking for the panniers, which I had very carefully stored in an unlabeled box in the attic. Why?
Day 1: North Potomac, Md to Caledonia State Park, PaWe had planned to leave at 8:00AM. At 7:15 I wheeled my bike out to the car, and noticed that the front brake was dragging. At 8:00 I was still trying to replace the front canti with one stolen from my spare parts box. Apparently I had sheared off the pin that sets the spring tension. Maybe that's why it was such a drag when I rode it to work the day before.
We finally rolled out of Tom's house at 9:00--only an hour behind schedule. Our history of military-precision departures was over. Within 45 minutes were were lost in Clarksburg. None of the roads were the same as when Tom Hoeger promoted the district road race there. Eventually we found our way to the first waypoint of they day: the ford on Prices's Distillery Rd.
After an unpleasant, traffic-filled detour around Frederick, we lunched at Loys covered bridge.
We knew the last 20 miles would be the hardest, as we would climb up onto South Mountain. Cold Spring Rd did not disappoint: long stretches of 5% interspersed with ramps up to 18%. The road wound up through commercial apple orchards, all of which were still harvesting.
Appropriately we finished the day on a dirt road. The combination of the loaded back end and the anemic front brake made the descent to US 30 a little dicey and not as fun as it could have been.
The tent sites at Caledonia State Park were all gravel. I had an inflatable pad, but Tom enjoyed tested his back on the gravel. Dinner for me was peanut butter and salami sandwiches. Tom ate hobo soup.
Day 2: Fort Frederick State ParkThe weather forecast for Saturday did not inspire confidence. Fortunately, we had scheduled a short day from Caledonia to Fort Frederick. We'd be racing the rain.
We dropped down on the west side of South Mountain. Immediately the farms and terrain changed, and were reminiscent of my '86 tour of central Germany. Frequently, the corn and soybeans were planted right up to the edge of the pavement, and when they weren't, the strip of grass was manicured to golf-fairway level. The lawns of every house were similar: manicured right up to the edge of the pavement. The answer was quickly revealed, when we saw a woman in a long brown dress mowing her lawn: Mennonites.
The first raindrops were falling while we were still on the C&O towpath, and Tom set up the tent in the rain, while I paid for the space.
Fort Frederick is a stone star fort from the French and Indian War era, when western Maryland was the wild west.
The rain drove off the tourists, so we had a private tour of fort
We hung out in the rocking chairs on the veranda of the gift shop until dark avoiding the rain, but eventually we had to return to our tiny tent. We had chosen our site poorly, and were stuck next to two rednecks. These guys seriously need to attend a story-telling workshop. I thought the pointless story about "I'm not go-in to have my dawg faht yer dawg" was never going to end.
Distance: about 55 miles.
Day 3: Fort Frederick and Home to Gaithersburg
Sunday dawned again like Friday. Another amazing day to be out on a bike. Just outside of Williamsport, we turned off the main road, and I spotted three VW van hulks outside what looked like an auto repair place. Knowing that Tom was a VW freak, I pointed them out and we circled back to Cookers Vdubs. A couple minutes later, Cooker himself was showing us around the bays. I was amazed that there were any VW vans to refurbish, but the owner pointed out a hulk outside the shop that he said the owner had paid $55000 for, sight unseen. Pretty amazing stuff.
On, through Williamsport, Smithsburg, and Brunswick. We crossed the Potomac at Brunswick, fueled up at the 7-11 in Lovettsville. After a loop through Waterford, we took Old Waterford Rd back to Leesburg. I hadn't been down that road since Sandra and I lived in Leesburg 21 years ago. It's probably ridable uphill with 23s.
We made it back to South Gaithersburg around 4:30PM
The trip wasn't as epic as previous versions, but that was probably a plus. I should examine why I want to turn every ride into a death march. More gravel would have improved the experience. Too much pavement.