Cycling the Greater Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal // DAY 4
Ohhh Day 4. Wiehan began this trip with the goal to cycle 515km / 320mi in 4 days, over the Greater Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal trails. By the start of day 4, he’d cycled a total of 232km. Four factors affected his ability to achieve his lofty goal:
1. Heatwave. The hottest days of the summer happened to coincide with this trip. It was tough to stay motivated with temperatures in the upper 90s F / 30s C each day, especially in a region with high humidity levels.
2. Trip length. It could perhaps be possible to cycle this distance in just 4 days, but only if endurance is the goal. In addition to cycling, Wiehan also wanted to enjoy the trip, as we traveled through areas we'd never been before. In the future, if we want to do this trip again, we’ll both ride. And we’ll extend the trip to 7 or 8 days, rather than 4. I’m not sure how we’ll get to Pittsburgh affordably with our bikes though. Any tips? Plus, we’re both heavy packers, so we’ll have to work on minimizing the amount of stuff we bring along.
3. Trail surface and the mountain bike. If the trail had been paved and Wiehan could have cycled with his road bike, he most certainly could have achieved the 515km distance in 4 days, with his current fitness level. But the bumpy gravel and dirt terrain slowed him down significantly, as did the extra weight of his mountain bike.
4. Me! Yes, he brought me along. And while I offered a ton of support, I also slowed him down with ideas like touring Fallingwater and exploring Berkeley Springs.
But we also learned another very important lesson on this trip: The importance of restful vacations. Whenever we travel, we try to squeeze as many sights and activities and workouts as possible into our travels. On our honeymoon, we hiked Table Mountain, in Cape Town, completely wiping ourselves out. Who does that? We’re supposed to be lounging poolside, sipping refreshing beverages and working on our tans! Four years later, we’re beginning to understand how lovely it would be to plan a trip to the beach for a week and do as little as possible the entire time... unlike that time we walked practically the whole of Rome in one day, or went running in the rain on Christmas morning in Nice. Exploration definitely has its place and we’ll most certainly continue to chase after our curiosity. But we’re also beginning to learn how to take time to rest and recuperate from our busy daily lives. After all, isn't that what a healthy balance is all about?
And so begins Day 4. Waking up in a luxurious hotel with an infinity pool overlooking a gorgeous view, Wiehan made the decision that we were going to enjoy our stay as much as possible, missing out on morning cycling hours. We had breakfast at the inn. He had a feast of oatmeal and Eggs Benedict. Feeling kind of gross from going off my AIP diet and eating a lot of gluten the previous day, I was in the mood for meat and vegetables. However, while breakfast for dinner is culturally acceptable, dinner for breakfast isn’t so readily available. So I ordered corned beef hash and eggs, not knowing exactly what this dish entailed. It didn’t exactly hit the spot and I should have ordered differently. But in any case, we wrapped up our breakfast and headed off to lounge at the pool. We had about an hour to spend poolside before tidying up and checking out.
Once checked out of our room, we reluctantly climbed into our steamy hot car, blasted the AC, and drove less than a mile to the Blue Moon Cafe. We’d been here once before, 6 months prior, on New Years Eve. But it looked completely different than our last visit - one of the coldest days of winter. I had no idea back then that a spring runs through the backyard! We sat on the back patio, right beside the running water. I ordered the Tarragon Chicken Salad and eagerly chomped on my salad greens. My cravings for fresh veggies were delightfully fulfilled. Wiehan ordered a thick, delicious, Chubby Burger. With tons of menu items catering to vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets, we especially love that Blue Moon supports local farmers and carries free range meat.
After wrapping up our meal, I dropped Wiehan off for his final ride of the trip. The original goal for Day 4 was to cycle all the way from Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to Georgetown, Washington, D.C., approximately 119km / 74mi. We planned to meet up in Harper’s Ferry, on this, the hottest day of our trip, with temperatures reaching right around 37.7 degrees Celsius / 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It was miserably hot and we were sweating like crazy. Fortunately the trail was highly shaded, providing Wiehan with some relief from the heat, but he still managed to go through 2 bottles of water in less than an hour. When we met up in Harper’s Ferry, it was clear that this weather was flat out unhealthy for any kind of physical activity, and thus Wiehan decided not to continue on.
Just a heads up here, for those planning to ride the C&O Canal - There’s a very high bridge in Harper’s Ferry that runs over the Potomac River. The only way to cross over from the trail to the town is by way of a steep, metal staircase up to the bridge. If you’re riding through, there’s a place to lock up your bike on the trail side. Since Wiehan wasn’t continuing with the ride, he had to carry his bike up the stairs, while wearing his cycling cleats, a difficult feat in such brutal heat.
I parked the car and used the restroom in the train station, while Wiehan secured his bike to the roof rack. Then I went to Battle Grounds Bakery & Coffee for two ice lattes (mine decaf), ice water, and two Clif Bars. A notable stop along the Appalachian Trail, Clif Bars are abundant in this town. We weren’t hungry for a full meal at that point, but the bakery does have sandwiches and salads that look and sounds fresh and delicious, along with the option for gluten free bread. Guzzling our cold beverages, we climbed back into the car, blasted the AC once again, and drove back home much earlier than anticipated and with many fewer kilometers achieved by bike. But we had memories to last a lifetime… and air conditioning awaiting our arrival.
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