Friday, November 29, 2013

A Shift to Stylish Cycling

Cycling was once strictly utilitarian for me. Getting from point A to B in comfort meant black garments, bike shoes or LL Bean boots for rainy days, plus rubberized yellow rainjacket. My bicycle had basic racks and fenders with black panniers. Boring, yes. But those were the times. Only a few of us actually road bikes for transportation—even less toured.

Enter recent acquisition of a step through style bike plus an old 12-speed. The shift from practical cycling garments to reflecting my personal style is still in transition, but unmistakably, something has changed. I think about wearing a skirt over tights, choosing a matching hand bag that can be tossed into a basket—often in flashy colors. The more leopard print the better. What shoes should I wear?

Style doesn't end with clothing either. It's all about the bike too. I coordinate handlebar tape, experiment with corks for bar end plugs, prefer longer lasting tires that honor the bike (gumwalls anyone?), racks or baskets that complement and provide ample storage. Beautiful bells. Comfy and good looking saddles. Repurpose bags into panniers and front mounted containers. The list goes on.

So what happened? Why the change? I think it partly due to recent bicycle culture. There are numerous organized bike rides. Tweed rides, night rides—you name it. Our local Great Turkey Chase and Halloween Ride come to mind. Each celebrates an occasion, representing a theme, often with recommended attire. In turn these events fuel bike happiness and confirm that it's acceptable to wear street clothes on the bike. Anything goes.

Without societal pressure, there is free reign to boldly go where no woman has gone before.* So profound, I know, and not necessarily a revelation, but there it is. Couple that with reality: I'm beyond school girl age. Who cares about social etiquette and conformity? As far as I'm concerned, it's license to follow my own wardrobe path.

And while I don't strictly adhere to lycra-less plumage, stretchy material has it's place on the bicycle. Think leggings, yoga pants. Jeans are usually out—too many seams—though I've been known to wear them on rare occasions. I straddle both legions. Enough form-fitting clothing to keep from getting caught in the chain and enough dual utility outerwear to easily walk into a store. All with style, of course.

Secondly, consider the resurrection and popularity of old bicycles—think 3- and 10-speeds. That's a culture that is quite literally, spinning its wheels. And—dare I say it—because helmets are not mandatory in most U.S. locales**, riding without special clothing or equipment has inadvertently encouraged everyday cycling. Roll a Raleigh 3-speed outdoors, hop on and ride 2 miles to the office. For many folks, it's faster than driving —not to mention locating and paying for parking.

Whatever your cycle style, I'll be touring with bold-printed socks in sandals and riding an old Peugeot around town. It's all good.

*Sorry trekkie fans. I couldn't resist. Or should that be Trek lovers?
**Please refrain from pro vs. against helmet use-related comments.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Handlebar Mania

Current bars on the Peugeot.
Whether it's reconfiguring an older bike to fit, or redoing a much-loved machine due to physical changes and/or limitations, replacing drop or straight bars with upright-style handlebars is all the rage. Handlebar fever has stricken Pondero, One Speed: Go!, and Family//Bike//Words. All have or are exploring alternative bars.

I've been bitten also. From current Ross handlebars to recent Peugeot tinkering, I've keyed on, primarily, different handlebar setups to, hopefully, solve fit problems.

Maybe something like these Pyramid
 riser bars could work.
Photo credit: Amazon
In fact, after riding the Peugeot for several days with current bar configuration, I'm unhappy with the result—I'm sitting more upright than I intended and the bars are too close to my body. I've discovered, however, that I love the mountain lever brakes and swanky grips. Those will stay and determine what future bars will grace the Peugeot.

I'm not in a hurry to make a change. It's nearly winter. I'll take my time, scout out local vendors, inspect bikes on the road, and explore options.

Or maybe an adjustable quill stem will do the trick. Hmm, never thought about that.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Greece - Pedaling a Rugged Coastline to Almiri

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Click here for the Introduction.

Andy and I climb the rugged hills near Nea Epidavros. Panaramio photos are copyright of their owners. Photographer: thsallas [2013-07-28]

27 miles - Tuesday, November 1

A pleasant morning. Cooler than usual, but clear and damp. Free camping felt liberating – and though we lacked a hot shower – it was unexpectedly spiritual and simple. I wake to glistening dew under the olive trees.

Andy and I coasted the remaining kilometers to a rugged coastline. We head north. Sweat pours down my knees as we ascend one 5 k incline plus another more grueling rise. It's brimming with beauty. It reminds me of Texas hill country: dusty red soil, pine trees. Herds of goats roam in the distance; bells chiming like faraway music. An occasional store or cafe sends Greek music filtering outside. I'm pleased the local people have escaped the Rock and Roll craze.

By noon time we descend 1000 feet to touristy Almiri. Signs advertise several campsites; we choose the first available one. This one is adequate, and importantly – we can reach Pireas docks tomorrow, allowing island transport plus possible ferry connection with Turkey.

Almiri Beach. Panaramio photos are copyright of their owners. Photographer Kiriakst

After an obligatory swim – I can't pass up any opportunity to dip in saltwater – we stock up on food and retreat to our site. Across the bay Andy and I study a relatively flat coastline – tomorrow's route – but more congested. The only unspoiled view from the beach is an oil refinery; stacks spew brown clouds. We are the solitary campers until a small R.V. pulls in at 7 p.m.

After a failed attempt at locating an English newspaper we strike up a conversation with the campground host, delighted he speaks our language. It's a chance to probe for any information that might aid our travel and in return we happily answer his questions. A phrase that is a common remark in Greece and throughout Europe: “Americans drive big cars.”

A few more facts about Greece:
  • half the population lives in Athens
  • like the U.S., population is in decline. Families are having fewer children.
  • Albanians, Turks, Africans illegally live in the country
  • young men must complete a 1-1.5 year military tour
  • visitors mainly arrive from France and Italy. Germans used to drive when Yugoslavia wasn't experiencing internal conflicts.
  • this campground sees approximately 15 bicycle tourists per year, mainly from the U.S.
  • young men learn English and young woman learn French as a second language

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Coffeeneuring Recap

Document the coffeeneuring experience. In a nutshell, the following is a condensed version, mostly for MG to fulfill her Coffeeneuring Challenge requirements. For others who desire an in depth account, I've provided links to separate blogposts:

First Cup - Monday, October 7
Black Jersey Blend Coffee
Total: 8 miles
Observation: An opportunity to photograph autumn colors before heading out for coffee.

Second Cup - Friday, October 11
North Beach, Coffee Shop Without Walls option
Fair Trade DCF Espresso
Total: 4 miles
Observation: Making Coffee on the beach with a lake view is heaven.

Third Cup - Monday, October 21
In a Treehouse, Coffee Shop  Without Walls option
Part Cafe Bustelo, part Fair Trade DCF Espresso
Total: 8 miles
Observation: I fall in love with the treehouse with each visit.

Fourth Cup - Friday, October 25
Uncommon Grounds
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Total: 3 miles
Observation: Rum cake doesn't pair well with flavored coffee.

Fifth Cup - Friday, November 1
Starbucks at Barnes & Noble
Chocolate Tazo Chai Tea Latte
Total: 5 miles
Observation: It's a comfortable place to read a book. However, I can't keep an eye on my bike.

Sixth Cup - Monday, November 4
New Moon

Total: 15 miles
Observation: This could easily become my new favorite coffee shop.

Seventh Cup - Monday, November 11 
Burlington Bagel Bakery
Oregon Chai Latte
Total: 9 miles
Observation: Bagels are still great, but bike parking is nil.

Friday, November 22, 2013

GAPCO - Irons Mountain Campsite to Hancock

There is plenty to investigate.
Tuesday, September 24, 50 miles.

Day five of our adventure started with damp cold. I was fully awake by 6 a.m., and peeked out the 6 inch hole in my mummy-style sleeping bag. It was the only way I kept warm—wearing a hat and coat draped over my torso made up for an inadequate bag, especially because it was 39F. It turns out I was the only one who slept through roaring, frequent trains—ear plugs were my friend. It was some time though, before I could extricate myself from my cocoon. Andy grumbled something about oatmeal being ready, which didn't sound too appetizing. I heard Patty shuffling about. I slowly did exercises and a half hour later, I roused myself outside, bundled in all the clothing I'd brought. I must admit, it felt good to stand up after 10 hours in a tent.

One of the many lock houses on the C&O Canal. Photo credit: Patty
Mornings on GAPCO (except for the first one) were often foggy and cold. Without ample sunshine to immediately warm us—aided by aforementioned green tunnel effect—it would be a couple hours before Patty and I felt comfortable. I never expected such cold. I consoled myself with knowing we'd never have problems with insects. And surely, we didn't fret about full campsites; it was quite the opposite.

Patty tucked chemical warmers in her socks. How brilliant! Like the Starbucks Via coffee packets she rationed, I imagined she carried only a few warmers with her so I didn't bother to ask if she had spares. Her circulation was worse than mine. I hadn't wished for my down booties (stuffed in a closet) for 20 years, yet I could've used them at the campsite. Actually, to save space, I should've brought my own warmers—Patty had the right idea. I sufficed with thick fleece socks inside thin soled shoes, then switched to sandals once we got rolling. We all bundled in hats, mittens, and rain gear over tights and jackets—anything to ward off numb fingers and toes.

One of many great blue herons enjoying the canal "soup".
In spite of the weather, early mornings on the trail brought their own magic. What the Great Allegheny Passage lacked in wildlife, the C&O Canal portion made up for in abundance. We flushed deer off the path, We gasped at close calls with squirrels darting in front of our wheels. Great blue herons poised one-legged on logs in the duck weed-filled canal. As I watched I couldn't help but wonder whether herons are bothered by cold. Possibly they balance on one leg while the other is tucked into their bodies for warmth.

I immediately recognized the "Who, who cooks for you?" bird call as a barred owl. I rarely see them in Vermont. We stopped and gazed through the trees until we spied the owl sitting on a branch.

Turtles were plentiful. They made us all laugh, lined up on logs emerging from the overgrown canal. Acquired by the National Park Service in 1935, many canal sections resemble ponds; otherwise a forest has grown. Except for the raised trail—which often felt like a rail trail to me—the defunct waterway is left to the animals. Often, when the lighting was just right, the weed-covered water could be mistaken for grass.

Photo credit: Patty
A few gates were in place, but we easily navigated around them. Barriers cautioned cyclers and allowed vehicles access to boat ramps and picnic area on the Potomac.

Photo credit: Patty
Ah, the much anticipated Paw Paw Tunnel! It's an amazing engineering feat, with 6 million bricks covering 3000 feet. The tunnel is completely unlit. Patty set off first, then I went next, closely followed by Andy with his mega bright headlight. The trail was only 4 feet wide. My light dimmed and proved useless. Patty yelled "be careful!". The packed dirt roughened and between stark shadows cast by Andy's light, hiding puddles that we nearly waded into, I almost crashed into the arching brick wall. Then there was the rail on the left, keeping us from plunging into water. Frightened, I got off my bike. I wasn't going to risk scraping my knuckles or having an accident.

Photo credit: Patty
Finally, emerging on the other side of Paw Paw, we gazed back, truly appreciating the stone work. We crossed the dry canal and ate lunch within view of the tunnel's entrance. It was fun to watch cyclists and walkers enter or exit.

Another creature to add to our list: an interesting striped lizard with distinctive blue tail slithers out from a cement block while we eat. Maybe he smelled our food! I later identified it as a blue tail skink, a common lizard in Maryland.

A typical view of trail and changing trees. Photo credit: Patty
In Little Orleans we try to find a few groceries but come up short. Bill's Place, a bar with ceiling covered in one dollar bills, however does have an ice cream freezer. Never pass up an opportunity to enjoy an ice cream bar!

Riding on the C&O Canal is a delight. Mostly. Because the one bothersome thing is the amount of debris we constantly flick up from the trail. Stones and most especially sticks catch, and snap, rocket sideways, back wards, or momentarily cling, riding up under the fender. I stopped a few times to remove sticks from the freewheel. Another time a stone inadvertently pinged from my bicycle and hit Patty.

As hilarious and silly as these minor events are, the sound of flung debris can be unsettling. It wouldn't take much for a stick to get stuck and take out a few spokes.

This was my first thought when an extremely loud crack comes from my rear wheel. It sounded like a gunshot and all three of us come to a halt.

Andy and I dismantle the fender while Patty documents the scene. Photo credit: Patty
I'm afraid to look, but of course, I must. I am relieved that the only casualty is my back fender. It's broken in the middle and something caused the rear portion to shove forward and crumple against the frame. I laugh. Surely, my fenders are jinxed on this trip.

We leave a piece of fender in place. I need a big wrench to undo the kickstand or remove
rear wheel in order to reach the last bolt holding the fender. 
The problem with fenders is they're just as difficult to remove as they are to put on. It takes almost 30 minutes for Andy and I to dismantle the screws and bolts, plus reattach the rear rack; both fender and rack shared the same frame hole. I save a few parts and add the rest to our trash bag.

Onward we go, eventually arriving in Hancock. We look for a private campground, ready for a shower. One option is to stay in lodging connected with a bike shop, but the stacked bunks resemble a kennel. Literally, the housing is outdoors—not unlike a hostel—but inside a fenced off 20 foot high cage. There is no privacy plus with the impending cold I knew I wouldn't be as warm as sleeping inside a tent. It was truly a weird place and could only be for summer travelers. Instead, we forego bathing and stay in the city park. A corner is set up for overnight guests complete with picnic tables, water spigot, and reasonable seclusion set back from the road. Andy was uncomfortable; there were teenagers hanging around, mainly near a group picnic shelter. We confirm our stay with with residents. And true to their word, local police cleared out the teenagers at 9 p.m.

After a quick walking tour of town there is nothing like Jiffy Pop and wine to round out the evening. Love that bike tourist fare...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We Should Be So Lucky!

A nice commuter bicycle with double basketsa good choice for market shopping.
Picture this: a mom and two teenagers ride bikes to their co-op's annual brunch. This market also loves cyclists, honors Bicycle Benefits, and provides ample covered bike parking. Usually. Because, for once, facilities are full. And so this mom eyeballs a rack that might've housed their bicycles, except a bike is locked crosswise, taking up four spaces. What's a mom to do? She sighs wistfully and makes do by securing all three bikes to a tree.

It's hard to be upset when I'm that mom. Full bike racks? We should be so lucky!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Greece - Nafplio and Epidavros

Follow New Posts in the Around The World series on Mondays.
Click here for the Introduction.

20 miles - Monday, October 31

Andy and I had hoped to bypass busy roads between Corinth and Pireas – boarding a boat from southern Peloponnese directly to Pireas and from there ferry to Greek islands. However, information was poor and we've little choice but to close the distance by bike. Train service is apparently four times slower than the bus. But as with any misinformation, it's often an opportunity. We can return north by a scenic coastal route.

Andy and I ride around picturesque Nafplio. A tiny castle-like structure rests offshore, nearly covering a rocky island. Once protecting the harbor, the building now houses a restaurant. A small open hulled boat is anchored between island and shore; it's image is reflected in calm water, like glass, under a perfect blue sky.
We spend the morning, enchanted, riding a walkway around a peninsula then visit the restored 17th century Palamidi Fort. It's the prominent feature, situated on the crest of a hill above Nafplio. Built by the Venetians, then captured by the Turks, the Greeks gained control in the 1800s. The approach to the high-walled fortress is by climbing 999 stone steps – no easy feat. The ascent is slow and steep, but thankfully in the shade. After each flight we take a break, admiring views of the broad bay, red-roofed Nafplio, and a public beach whose aqua waters and growing number of bathers, and most especially enjoying the ocean, looked more and more appealing the further uphill we went. At the top Andy and I roam the ramparts. Without rails or any safety features of any kind, it's a bit spooky. There is a fine line between peering over the edge and experiencing vertigo, so I remain safely back. I go week kneed though, as Andy gazes downward, unafraid of heights.

Back with the bikes, we eat lunch and pedal a long hill, ascending for 26 kilometers. Rising for 1,000 feet we observe eucalyptus and palm trees give way to rocky hillsides studded in pine and olive groves. Passing by one long white building, the tart smell of olives drifts upwards along with us. I wondered whether they're pressing oil or soaking olives for later consumption.

I prefer riding beside olive trees. The thin leaves provide a little shade, are fragrant, spacious underneath, and are a last resort should we need a place to pitch our yellow tent. All the more comforting because most campgrounds close today.

By mid-afternoon we reach the piney heights of Epidavros, a sanctuary of Esculapeus, god of health. Several temples stand in ruin; only large stones outline each building on dry, cracked earth, covering several acres. Yet, a restored amphitheater, seating 14,000 is exquisitely beautiful, Above the seating are rocky, flat summits and pine trees; the structure was deliberately built into the side of the hill, taking advantage of natural acoustics. I climb to higher seats while Andy stands on stage. His voice is sharply magnified, sending goosebumps up my arms.

Afterward,we begin a deserved downhill stretch and start looking for a place to camp. Andy and I turn down a dirt road near an old stone building. We don't really know if the locals understand our intent but when asked to camp they respond with “no problem”, which is good enough for us. We make dinner and are halfway through making our usual tomato sauce and pasta when a maroon-colored Jeep pulls up. A woman and man get out. First they walk away from us but then double back. I was nervous, wondering if we misunderstood; these two were not the same folks who gave us permission to stay. Andy waves and smiles, continuing to stir our dinner pot. I jumped up to try and explain our presence. The woman turns to her companion who speaks a little English. He confirms that it's all right to stay. Interestingly enough, he tells us his grandmother lives or lived in Chicago – I wasn't sure which. He and his mom had come by to check the olives. Fifteen more days until harvest.

A few days ago, someone assured us the Greeks are laid back. Tonight certainly proves it. Without further worry we set up the tent on sloping ground, crawl inside, and read by candlelight. I am content and delighted to sleep under the sprawling olive trees.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Island Line Trail Map

New this past summer: the Island Line Trail map. Much like its predecessor, it highlights the waterfront trail, but now expands upon Colchester's, South Hero's, and South Burlington's connector paths.

I love the fold-out style. It's easy to read and also guides users a half mile from lakefront to downtown's pedestrian mall —a big draw for first time visitors to Burlington. I'm so impressed with this year's format that I keep an extra copy to give to Warm Showers guests. Getting around town can be difficult—and even harder to describe—especially cycling to/from our home, a sweaty 200 foot gain from lake level. Now it's as easy as handing fellow cyclers a map and letting them decide which course to follow.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Coffeeneuring - Seventh Cup

I locked my bike to a picnic table.

Seventh Cup - Monday, November 11 - Burlington Bagel Bakery
My final coffeeneuring run was tacked onto a ride to Lowes for paint. On my way home I stopped by Burlington Bagel Bakery in South Burlington where I could get lunch and coffeeneur. Once the only bagel provider in the region, the business expanded, outgrowing it's original location in downtown Burlington. It has, however, gone through growing pains; the business branched out into several locations, but then competition took hold—we are big bagel fans here—and currently only the South Burlington shop remains.

There are numerous businesses along busy auto-centric Route 7. Most lack adequate bike parking and the bagel shop was no exception. Surrounded by asphalt, the property is devoid of trees or fencing that might double as post for locking a bike. Ugh. I was lucky that it was a brisk afternoon; picnic tables were empty and provided ample space for my bike.

Parking difficulty aside, the bagels are still first rate. I drank a tall Oregon Chai Latte, accompanied by chicken salad on rosemary bagel. The filling was fresh, oozing out, reminding me how it's a mouth workout to consume a bagel sandwich. The latte could've had more flavor, but I drank every bit and struggled homeward with a full belly.

Total mileage: 9 miles.

First CupSecond CupThird CupFourth CupFifth Cup, Sixth Cup

Big thanks to MG at Chasing Maiboxes Third Annual Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

2013 Foliage Challenge - Photo #14

MG from Chasing Mailboxes D.C. adds another autumnal specimen to the fall potpourri. "This tree lives along Ohio Drive between Hains Point and the Tidal Basin," says MG.

I'm glad that brilliant color finally graced the Southeast. Now that we're straddling winter weather here in Vermont, I'll take any glimpses of color that I can get!

Join me in this Celebration of Fall. I'll post your foliage photo(s) in this series.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Just Because...

The sign must refer to maniac drivers.
Just because sunset comes early. Get out, go ride.

Just because a trail forks; take the one least traveled.

Leddy Park.
Just because pockets of brilliant color remain.

Quiet, lake views that soothe the soul.
Any moments I can spare. Doing errands. Whatever. I ride. Just because.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Coffeeneuring - Sixth Cup

Sixth Cup - Monday, November 4 - New Moon
First day with a scarf and thicker head band than usual, it was nonetheless another sun-filled coffeeneuring ride.

The waterfront path was quiet, a nice perk for year-round cyclists who ride during the cooler months. The asphalt was very clean, unusually so, until I spied a Parks & Recreation employee walking, blowing leaves off the path. This is new. In the past, leaves compacted until covered by snow. Recent clearing may coincide with Penny for Parks program updates. The fund dedicates $350,000 annually to parks improvements.

For me, it was heaven, confidently riding without worrying whether my tires slip on wet leaves. With foliage season long past, I enjoyed broader lake vistas, and most especially observing ducks, splashing and honking on sandy shores.

Enough about the scenery! As I climbed from lakefront to downtown, I was still undecided what cafe to support. Then I stared right at New Moon. At least two years ago—approximately when the place opened—someone mentioned it was run by a religious cult. Since then, it's been off my radar and as it turns out—unjustly so. I park at the nice blue bus-shaped rack out front, willing to give New Moon a chance.

Oh my. The ambiance is warm and inviting: brick walls, fireplace aglow, free WIFI, leather loveseats and lots of wooden tables fill the front area and beyond the central coffee/food/deli area there is more seating at the rear. The place is huge. I order an Americano with big chocolate chip cookie, pleased they honor my Bicycle Benefits sticker. It comes to 3.88. My goodness, what a deal.

Fireplace seats are already taken, so I sit at a table. The Americano is smooth, tasty, even with a bit of milk splashed in (poor man's latte). The only downside is they've run out of mugs and I drink it in paper cup. I love the cookie. It's thick, crunchy and very fresh. I tried to save some for my boys, but I break off bits until I've eaten the whole thing.

Where have I been all these years? New Moon is infinitely more inviting than my regular downtown coffee shop. Less expensive too. And with breakfast burritos, an interesting lunch menu, specializing in local ingredients, I know I'll be back. This could easily become my favorite haunt.

Total mileage: 15 miles.

First CupSecond CupThird CupFourth Cup, Fifth Cup, Seventh Cup

For rules, visit Third Annual Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

GAPCO - Rockwood to Irons Mountain Campsite

Photo credit: Patty
Monday, September 23. 52 miles.

Every morning on a bike tour should start with eating pie at breakfast time! My husband's resistance to sweets lowers dramatically when he comes face to face with fruit pie. Such was the case when he purchased a blueberry pie the evening before, yet inevitably was unable to eat much, after wolfing his mandatory pasta. Not to worry though, we'd pack leftovers to eat en route.

 Salisbury Viaduct. Photo credit: Patty
We regrettably left the hostel by 8:00, by now a warm and comfy haven for Patty and me, who suffer more so than Andy in the cold. Patty's phone said it was 39 F. Bundled in extra layers, hoods under helmets, and mittens necessary, we kept climbing in altitude toward the eastern continental divide. Today's highlights, according to our map, promised to include multiple points of interest, so despite the cold, we bubbled in excitement.

Within 15 miles we pedaled over the spectacular 1900 foot Salisbury Viaduct. It's an amazing structure, spanning highways, railroads, and farmland. We were lucky that Amtrak happened to pass below us after we'd stopped, alerting us with the mandatory horn blowing as it travels through junctions and populated regions.

As with many of the bridges, viaducts, and tunnels, the safety features are pure delight: smooth concrete and high sturdy railings, lending confidence even when seated higher, pedaling a burdened, sometimes wobbly bicycle. We looked forward to these crossings, which afforded open landscape views, an alternative to often monotonous wooded trail.

Still steadily gaining altitude, we took a break at Meyersdale's train station. Patty and I were chilled. I regretted not bringing warmer footwear; my wool socks and bike sandals had to suffice for the rest of the trip. With tin mug in hand I went searching for coffee and walked into a renovated train station, complete with bathrooms, gift shop, museum, and model railroad, run by an elderly lady who graciously filled my mug from her office pot of coffee. Thank you, kind soul.

Meyersdale trailside museum.

Warmed and stoked for the next miles, we set off but are soon way laid at the Bollman Bridge. Patty and I momentarily inspect historical signs and continue—it was much like other bridges.

However, Andy remains, talking with a gentleman who'd paused, leaning on his walking stick. Patty and I cross the bridge and viaduct then wait, enjoying the changing foliage, noticing also a ridgeline filled with wind generators. Patty becomes cold and goes back to find out why Andy is taking so long.

He'd gotten caught up in conversation. He loves to talk—no surprise to me of course—but it becomes a concern when traveling with two easily chilled women. Peculiarities of women's bodies aside, it was a reminder that this adventure wasn't a race. To take a break and chat with the locals was equally important. And, as our adventure progressed, my husband would observe things Patty and I were oblivious to; sometimes he'd alert us, other times not, lingering to his own music and exploration, hence Patty and I were caught up in forward motion until she or I realised Andy wasn't behind us.

Last grunt to the divide tunnel. Photo credit: Patty
We took a quick break in Deal to use the trailside facilities. I also needed some calories so I polished off the last of the pie. But it was a short and sweet interlude. Time to hoof it over the divide and descend to balmier lowland.

Photo credit: Patty
In typical Great Allegheny Passage fanfare, signage at the divide, at nearly 2400 feet, celebrated our accomplishment. I'm sure the auto road passing overhead didn't include historical murals...

Photo credit: Patty

Photo credit: Patty
...nor the elevation charts, displaying a slow steady gain, which we'd ridden over the past three days, plus the anticipated steep descent on the other side.

Photo credit: Patty
Out of the tunnel we shift into a higher gear, first time in days. It's a noticeable drop. I whoop it up, pedaling and coasting, repeating the pattern to keep momentum. We'd certainly earned this downhill.

Before we know it, we are cruising through the Big Savage Tunnel.

It's well lit, but still eerie riding 3,300 feet underground, following a speck of daylight at the far end.

Photo credit: Patty
Encountering the Mason Dixon Line, two miles later, came as a complete surprise. It's a new monument too, completed within the past year. We all particularly enjoy the individual MASON DIXON letters etched on each granite block, extending from initial pillar and intersecting trail, then continuing straight along the state line.

This descending stuff was going to get the better of us. Barreling into Maryland, through another tunnel and several miles later, we are cold and stiff. Arriving in Frostburg I was ready to locate a coffee shop. However, we didn't expect a half mile climb to get to town. Instead we all go into survival mode, realise we have a stove, and create our own temporary coffee shop within a spot of heavenly sunshine, amongst the comings and goings of other bike tourists and the curious who've parked automobiles in the trail access lot.

Path parallels Western Maryland Railway. Photo credit: Patty
It was providence. We warmed up, swapped pleasantries with other riders, then continue descending, riding beside the Western Maryland Railway all the way out of the mountains into Cumberland. I don't know if it was the time of year, proximity to raging rivers, or high mountain weather, but the Great Allegheny Passage portion of our trip was curiously devoid of wildlife. I expected to dodge at least chipmunks or squirrels and they were nowhere to be found.

Purple bicycle parked outside National Park Service information center. Photo credit: Patty

It's a seamless transition from one trail to another. After restocking on food and wine, we pass beneath the blue entrance, stop to take obligatory photos as rights of passage, then continue riding beside the Potomac River. For the next 180 miles we'll be on National Park land.

We're warm now, but still retain socks in sandals. I loved Patty's colorful ones.

Photo credit: Patty

Chick flick photo to send to Patty's boyfriend.

From this vantage, looking back toward the obvious cut through the mountains, The Great Allegheny Passage slips through The Narrows and ends in Cumberland.

Photo credit: Patty
Anxious to see what the C&O Canal surface is like, we are pleasantly surprised. It's 18" wide in parts, but very ridable, even for my touring bike. I grab the outer part of my mustache bars for control, concentrating on staying within the trail. Patty is likewise getting used to a narrower surface. Andy surprises us, however, noticing turtles lined up on fallen branches filling the defunct canal, unmaintained for 70 years, half covered in duckweed.

Ten miles from Cumberland, it's time to call it a day. We opt for the second campsite. These primitive places are free and come with hand-pump water, portolet, and picnic table.

Photo credit: Patty
It's burrito night, welcome after too many pasta meals. Then it's early to the tent. Even though we've dropped in altitude, cool weather is upon us for a few days, not entirely welcome of course, but nothing to do but wear extra clothing and hunker inside warm sleeping bags. Train traffic is frequent; ear plugs are a necessity.