Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving WNC Style

This year we spent Thanksgiving week in a cabin in the woods near Brevard, NC.  The goals for the week were to explore the area, hike, drink beer & eat good food. There were wild fires in the area so we were concerned about smoke in the area.  For most of the week the air was good but there were a couple of days that were pretty smokey.

Saturday Morning 
Tuesday afternoon after the smoke rolled in

We arrived on Friday just before sunset.  Good thing too since this cabin was a bit off the beaten track.  We booked Serenade Cove via VBRO.  Overall, the cabin was great.  It was about 15 minutes to Brevard or Hendersonville and 40 minutes to Asheville. Transylvania county is known for the waterfalls. We wanted to explore Pisgah National Forest & Dupont State Forest and we did.

Saturday was Steve's run day & was supposed to be my last long run before the Gobbler half. I was still recovering from a cold so I decided to walk with Sammie while Steve got his run in.  We started on the Brevard Greenway & ran/walked into Pisgah.  Oh, how I wish we lived in a town where trails were virtually at your door step.

After our run we headed to Dixie Diner in Hendersonville for a late breakfast.  They had a breakfast buffet but you could also order off the menu.  Steve did the buffet & I had the pumpkin pancakes special. Good place for breakfast.  After brekkie we headed back to the cabin to wait for Mom to show up.  After she arrived we headed to downtown Brevard to check out Brevard Brewing & have some dinner.  Steve had the American Red Ale & Mom & I tried the Munich Dunkel.  Both were good beers.  Nice location right on Main Street too.

After beers we headed to The Square Root for dinner. We got there around 6PM & was seated without a reservation.  If we showed up later we would have been turned away. That is one thing I am not used to anymore, making reservations.  The food was fantastic. Glad we were able to get a table.

Sunday Steve & I headed to Dupont State Forest to check out some waterfalls.  The county is known for their waterfalls but considering the drought we weren't sure how many would be flowing.  Turns out they all were.  I can only imagine how beautiful they would look after a good rain.  We hiked about 7 miles of the roughly 90 miles of trails. The trails were easy & mostly well marked.

Hooker Falls
Lake Dense

Sunday night we headed to Marco Trattoria in Brevard for dinner.  I can't remember what we ordered but I do remember it was a cool place and another fantastic meal.  Gobble.Gobble.'till.You.Waddle.

Monday I did my last longish run.  I was supposed to do 8 miles for my last long run but decided to only do 5 since we did such a long hike the day before.  We went back to Brevard Greenway.  I ran the Greenway & Steve walked Sammie into Pisgah.

After our run & showers we headed to Asheville.  On our way we stopped for lunch and a flight at Sierra Nevada.  If you want to do a tour make sure to book in advance.  This place is amazing!

Sierra Nevada Flight
After lunch we stopped in at REI and then went to check out New Belgium Brewery.  Their flights are twice the amount as Sierra Nevada.  So we had a lot of beer to drink.  In the past, I have loved New Belgium beer but compared to the other breweries in town this was my least favorite.  Kind of a let down actually.

New Belgium Brewing

New Belgium Brewing

New Belgium Brewing
Tuesday was another hike in Pisgah.  This time we did a 4 mile loop that included part of Black Mountain trail which is very popular with the MTB folks.  Steve was all about getting a mountain bike to check out the trails but I was Debbie Downer.  I wasn't interested in mountain biking this trip at all.

After getting cleaned up we went back into Brevard while it was still daylight to see if we could locate any white squirrels.  No such luck.  We also wanted to walk through Main Street in the daylight to check out what it had to offer.  Really cute strip with some nice stores, a couple of breweries & some nice dining options.  We stopped into Eucusta Brewing to check out their beers.  Steve got the IPA, I got the porter & Mom had the coffee brown ale.  All were really tasty.

Eucusta Brewing Downtown
On the bartender's suggestion we had dinner at Magpie Meat & Three.  It did not disappoint. We ate really well this trip.  I am going to be waddling through this half marathon.

Wednesday we hiked another trail in Pisgah.  This time the Cat Gap trail loop.  About 4.5 miles & some decent climbing.  Our legs were pretty tired by this point.

Cat Gap Trail - Pisgah
Wednesday night we went back into Asheville to see the Winter Lights display at the North Carolina Arboretum.  It was a perfect temperature to walk through the gardens to see the display.  Very tastefully done.
Winter Lights
Winter Lights
Winter Lights - The only way to get a picture with Mom.
Thursday after watching some of the Macy's parade we drove to Hendersonville to check out the Oklawaha Greenway and to kick off the 2016 Runner's World holiday run streak.  It is a decent trail that connects several parks in town.

Day 1 of the 2016 #RWRunStreak
After our run we drove through downtown Hendersonville.  Nice main street with lots of shops & restaurants.  Since it was Thanksgiving everything was closed.  We spent the rest of the day at the cabin & eventually made our very non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner of ravioli, salad & garlic bread along with a bottle of red wine.

As always, it is sad when vacation comes to an end.  We head home Friday in time for my first half marathon in 5+ years.

Happy Thanksgiving y'all!!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Tri for Sight - 6th Edition

Tri for Sight is where it all started.  In 2009, I joined Team in Training to raise money & awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society in memory of my Dad who lost his battle with Multiple Myeloma in 2006.  This year was my 6th Tri for Sight.  

This year T4S was the Sunday after we got back from our C&O bike trip.  I had no expectations on the swim or run.  I only swam once since the LaPorte Triathlon in August.  I did finally get that cortisone shot in my shoulder & it has seemed to help the pain.  I have had 2 pain free swims since the shot.  I still am not in the pool regularly but I am hoping that soon I can start swimming on a more regular basis.

A short lived cool front came in the day before the race so the weather was perfect.  Even had to put on a long sleeved shirt & vest to stay warm.

Transition Ready
Most of Team Steve - Becky, Steve, Me & Audrey
As usual, I had about an hour wait after the first swimmer before I started my swim.  My swim was still slow but I could at least pull with my right arm without pain. Overall the swim was fine, had some of the usual traffic but for the most part it was a clear swim.
Yay - finally lining up on the pool deck!
400m Swim time: 11m05s, 11/13 AG

T1 time: 2m01s, 3/13 AG

I was curious how the bike was going to feel.  On one hand I should be fast since that is all I did in August but on the other hand I knew I wasn't fully recovered from our trip.  Once on the road I could feel my legs were still fatigued.

There was a bike wreck on one of the curves which slowed most everyone down.  Thankfully the guy wasn't seriously hurt but they did have to call an ambulance & fire engine.  On my way back I chose to stop & let them go by.  The road was narrow & with bikes on both sides it was difficult for them to get through.  I probably lost about a minute doing this but if it was me I would hope folks would put their race aside let the emergency vehicles through.

12.6 mile Bike time: 45m31s, 6/13 AG

T2 time: 1m00s, 7/13

The run was an out & back. Doing a 5 minute run & 1 minute walk has been working out pretty well for me.  I was surprised the run felt really good.  I had done a brick a few nights before & it felt awful but it was still hot.  I think the cooler temperatures made a huge difference in comfort level.

5K Run time: 31m49s, 9/13 AG

Overall time: 1h31m28s, 9/13 AG


The oldest female finisher was 84 years old.  One of the TNT folks told me she has done hundreds of triathlons over the years.  I find this so amazing.  I really respect the men & women who are still competing well into their golden years. It did get me thinking of how many triathlons I have completed since I started this journey.  Not counting the year I did T4S as a relay, I have completed 26 triathlons since 2009. At this rate I will have completed 170+ triathlons when I am 84.  Sweet!

Next up: Gobble 1/2 Marathon in November

Saturday, September 10, 2016

C&O Canal - Gear, Tips & Helpful Resources

See THIS post on our day to day travels on the C&O Canal from Cumberland, MD to Washington DC.


We were fully self supported on this trip.  There are plenty of outfitters in the area that will provide SAG for a fee.  We saw a couple of groups that went this route but we chose to be self supported and are glad we did.

From our trip last year on the Greenbriar River Trail I learned that a trailer is NOT the way to go.  Some folks use a single wheel trailer & say that is fine but no thanks.  This past winter I got my bike outfitted with a front rack & panniers.  It did take me about a couple of miles on the trail to get used to the extra weight but I was able to go so much farther in a day without the trailer.

My bike is a Fuji Absolute 2.0 Hybrid with gravel tires.  I did get bar extensions added this summer & that made a world of difference on comfort.  It gave me options on riding positions which really helped especially as the butt got sore.

Steve has a Salsa Fargo also equipped with front & rear Orlieb panniers.  We both have a trunk bag & a front handlebar bag for quick access.  Steve has a phone mount on this handlebars.  He also has a top tube bento box that he keeps his phone charging brick in.

I have front & rear Ortlieb waterproof bags.  It is amazing how much stuff you can carry! A couple weeks before our trip we spent an afternoon laying all the gear we thought we needed out & loading in our bags to get an idea of weight.  A couple nights before we left we again loaded & weighed everything but also created an inventory list for each bag.  This really helped me when I needed something specific but didn't want to dig through every bag.

Steve's Gear List 
Andrea's Gear List
We also used smaller bags to organize stuff within each bag.  For me this system worked great.  For Steve, not so much.  He seemed to always have a hard time finding stuff & would have to rummage through every bag.  This is just some of the stuff spread out our DC hotel room.

When we were at the B&B, Will asked if we used everything.  Surprising, I used just about everything in these bags.  I didn't use the rain fly but had we camped that 3rd night we certainly would have. There was one pair of running shorts I didn't wear either but everything else got at least 1 wear if not multiple wears.  We did laundry at the B&B so we were able to get away with 4 sets of cycling clothes yet only have to wear them once between washes.

We packed up all our cycling bags in Lexington & packed an overnight bag for our first & last night of the trip in Cumberland which included our first day of riding clothes.  That way, we only had to add a few items to our panniers the morning we started out on the C&O.


  • Bug Spray Bring Bug spray & apply before you even need it.  I ended up with a bug bite for every mile we rode.  I think we got into a chiggers nest or something.  I had at least 15-20 bites on both legs & the back of my arms.  Mosquitos will eat you up at night so bring a bug net if camping.  I also got one mystery bite on my leg, probably some kind of spider.  It still is on my leg almost 2 weeks later.
  • Water  The water on the trail is treated with Iodine.  It tastes terrible.  Refill your bottles in town whenever you can. Every place we ate at offered to fill up our bottles.  If you do fill your bottles with the trail water the taste will stay in the bottle until you give them a good wash.  Don't bother trying to boil the trail water to make coffee.  It will taste terrible.  Steve had a filter but we didn't use it so maybe that would have filtered out the taste - not sure on that one.
  • Food  I had a bag full of food just in case.  We did need it the first day for lunch & 2 days on the trail for breakfast as well as snacks.  All other meals we were able to get in towns along the way.  
  • Hills  Most towns are up a hill from the C&O.  Not crazy steep hills but when you have your heavy bike loaded down with 60 pounds of gear & it is 90+ degrees they are pretty tough.  Cumberland, Hancock & Frederick are right on the trail. All other towns are a mile to several miles off the trail.  Just be aware of this.
  • Lodging There are Hiker/Biker campsites every 5-10 miles.  They all had a picnic table, porto potty & water.  Most had trees to hang your hammock in.  Some were right on the trail, some were farther away.  Be advised, you ride near a train line for part of the trail.  Our first night, there were train tracks across from the river which you couldn't see but at midnight when you are trying to sleep you can certainly hear it.  THIS site does a pretty good job listing the sites you want to have ear plugs for.
  • Trail Condition - The trail is bumpy.184 miles of bumpy. Get used to it. You will spend a good portion of time navigating around roots, rocks & ruts.  I almost bit it twice getting into a deep rut.  I thought for sure I was going down but at the last second the rut kicked me out.  The beginning of the week it was dry so the trail was very dusty.  Our bikes were filthy by day 3 when we got to the B&B.  The 4th day on the trail it was muddy so they were coated in mud by the end of the day.  Bring chain lube because you will want to rinse your bike off every chance you get. Also, be advised if you run off the trail you will either be in water or down an embankment for the majority of the ride.  The trail isn't narrow but it can be nerve wracking in some areas.
  • C&O Companion App - Steve downloaded this app & used it quite a bit on the trail.  
  • Cell Service - I have T-Mobile & Steve has AT&T.  He had cell & data the majority of the trail.  I had cell but only had data in Sharpsburg, Leesburg & as we got close to DC.

The C&O Bicycling Guide - I studied this website most of the summer.  It was extremely helpful in planning our trip.

GAP/C&O Bike Trip Blog - I read this blog over & over as well.  Very helpful, especially on Day 5 when it rained.  I remembered their post about Comfort Suites having a shuttle service from White's Ferry.

Cumberland Visitors Center - Here we picked up a few pamphlets.  Here are the ones I used most:

This was used the most.  How far to the next rest stop?
This was used the most.  How far to the next rest stop?
Used this to help us find Mile 0
Very handy guide to the towns along the trail

I ordered this book about a month before we left.  We didn't use it too much on the trail but we both read through it before leaving. It covers both the GAP & C&O.

Lastly, I created a google sheet with links to all these websites, lodging along the way & other various information I thought would be helpful.  I accessed this several times over the week.  It was good to have everything in one file.

I honestly can't think of anything I would change if I was to ride this trail again.  I know Steve would say he would bring his real sleeping bag & not just a liner.  Even though it was hot during the day you still needed a sleeping bag at night in the hammocks.  Probably wouldn't have needed them if we had brought our tent instead.  Steve says he would skip bringing his camp chair next time.  I personally like having the camp chair if we are going to camp.

I am really glad we took the entire week to ride this trail.  We never felt rushed to get to the next town.  We had plenty of time to stop & take in the surroundings.  For me there is no way we would have been able to ride this in 3 days.  A lot of people do but it would not have been enjoyable.

For our day to day rides on the C&O check out THIS blog post.

Happy travels!

C&O Canal Bike Trip

Last year, Steve & I did our first bike camp trip in West Virginia.  This year when BCC announced a GAP & C&O trip it piqued out interest.  Only problem was that the original BCC plan was to ride all 335 miles in one week.  I knew that was out of the question for me.  40'ish miles per day was going to be the most I could do based on last years Greenbrier experience.

Our plan was to drive to Cumberland, MD, ride to Washington DC then take Amtrak back to our car. We planned a rest day in Sharpsburg so we could tour Antietam.  This post will be on the day to day details.

Refer to THIS post for info regarding the gear we brought, tips & resources we found helpful.

Day 0 - Drive to Cumberland, MD

We left Lexington about 8AM and arrived in Cumberland at 2:30PM.  We wanted to get there mid-afternoon to check out the visitors center, figure out where to leave our car & find the Amtrak station for our return from DC.  We stayed at the Fairfield Inn in Cumberland, MD which backs up to the C&O trail.  At check in I asked about long term parking & they let guests leave their car in their lot.  Perfect!
All of this will be on our bikes!
After rolling our bikes up to the room we walked to the Visitor center where we picked up a couple of maps.  We then walked to the Crabby Pig for a late lunch. The restaurant is right at the terminus for the C&O and the GAP trail. Steve had fish & chips and I had a spinach salad with shrimp & Maryland crab cake.  Both were really good.

After we ate, we walked to the Amtrak station so we could get our bearings for our return from DC.  Amtrak now has a roll on bike service on several rail lines.  More on that later.

We went to bed pretty early but we were both too excited/nervous to get a good nights rest.

Day 1 - Cumberland, MD to Indigo Neck Hiker/Biker Campsite

Day 1 Mileage = 45.92 miles, 8.2 mph

We were up by 6AM.  Showered, ate breakfast at the hotel & loaded our gear onto our bikes.  We took pictures at the 'end' of the C&O canal trail before starting our ride about 8:30AM.

DC or Bust!
Loaded up & ready to go
Riding out of Cumberland, MD
Riding out of Cumberland, MD
Our plan for the first day was to get to Little Orleans, about 43 miles or so.  It took a couple of miles to get used to handling the bike with all the weight but after that I was pretty settled in.  The trail is an old tow path & pretty darn bumpy.  Most of the time you really need to keep an eye out for rocks, roots & deep ruts in mud.  There was plenty of tree cover which was good because it was hot the first few days of our trip.

One of the first locks we came to.

There are very few towns right on the trail.  Most are a few miles & hill climbs away.  Normally hill climbing is no big deal but fully loaded with gear on your heavy hybrid bike with gravel tires, not so much fun.  One of the cool sights of the day was Paw Paw tunnel.  We walked our bikes through the tunnel.  It is 3,118 feet long & gets very dark once inside.  Headlights are a must.

Since we didn't feel like exploring just how far the town of Paw Paw was we ate one of our dehydrated meals at Sorrel Ridge HB (MM154.1).  This will end up being our only dehydrated meal of the entire trip.

After lunch we rode on to Little Orleans.  We planned to stay at the Little Orleans campground.  It isn't too far from the trail but does include some hills to get to the campground & main office.  We decided the hills were something we did not want to do more than once.  The campground look nice but decided to find an HB after dinner.

Dinner was at Bill's right off the trail in Little Orleans.  We had burgers & beer before heading back on the trail.
We settled on Indigo Neck HB (MM 139.2) for our first night camping.  We decided to use hammocks instead of tents this trip. We were all set up by about 8PM & with so many mosquitos I opted for hanging out in the hammock.  We skipped the rain flies but both of us have bug netting.  It was initially really warm but by 11PM I needed my sleeping bag.  I think the low was around 68F.   The hammock was so comfortable.  I swear I slept better hanging from a tree than in my bed at home!  No aches or pains in the morning either which is my complaint with tent camping.   Steve left his sleeping bag at home & only had a couple of liners - he was sorry.  It was a bit cold for him in the wee hours of the night.  Lesson learned!

Indigo Neck HB 
Indigo Neck HB
What the trail looked like most of the time

Day 2 - Indigo Neck Hiker/Biker Campsite to Opequon Junction HB

Day 2 Mileage = 50.25 miles, 9.1 mph (20 miles on the asphalt WMRT)

We were up at sunrise. We made oatmeal & coffee for breakfast before packing up our gear.  By 8:45 we were riding.
Start of Day 2
Start of Day 2
3 miles into our day we hit the Western Maryland Rail Trail...HELLO ASPHALT!! The WMRT runs parallel to the C&O for about 20 miles.  You don't realize how much you miss asphalt until you ride about 50 miles on a bumpy gravel/dirt trail.

We stopped in Hancock for a late breakfast / early lunch.  This is one of 3 towns that is right on the trail - no hill climbing required.  The other two are Cumberland & Frederick, MD.  We stopped into this bike shop to guzzle down some gatorade.  It was hot & the water on the trail tastes like iodine because that is what it is treated with.

Bike shop right off trail in Hancock, MD
About 0.5 from trail in Hancock, MD.  Great breakfast & cookies
We ate another breakfast at Weaver's & took cookies to go.  We were back on the trail by noon.  We stopped along the way to take in the sights.  So much history along this trail.

Day 2 Sights Along Trail
Day 2 Sights Along Trail 
Day 2 Sights Along Trail
Day 2 Sights Along Trail 
Day 2 Sights Along Trail
Day 2 Sights Along Trail 
Day 2 Sights Along Trail
We did make a cooling off stop at a HB mid afternoon.  We used a pump to wet our heads & wash off.  It felt amazing!

By late afternoon we rode on to Williamsburg where we climbed the hill to Main Street not once but twice.  Steve thought I was going the wrong way so we turned around & took the bridge over to West Virginia.  He then realized we were going the right way so we headed back.  We stopped in a sweet shop for some more gatorade & then headed to Tony's Pizza for dinner.  Everywhere we stopped for food or drinks offered to fill our water bottles without asking.  We were very appreciative because it was another 90F degree day.

After splitting a pepperoni pizza we were back on the trail to find a HB.  The first one we came across was occupied but the next one was perfectly vacant right on the river. We stayed at Obequon Junction HB (MM 90.9)  The water pump didn't work but we washed off in the river.  We were setup by sunset & I tried to stay up later reading but got a million mosquito bites so jumped into the hammock.  Even though the day was hot the humidity was lower so it felt great.  I slept great but Steve was pretty cold again.

Obequon Junction HB (MM 90.9)
Obequon Junction HB (MM 90.9)
Obequon Junction HB (MM 90.9)
Obequon Junction HB (MM 90.9)

Day 3 - Opequon Junction HB to Inn at Antietam

Day 3 Mileage = 16.31 miles, 7.9 mph

We were up at sunrise again.  We made coffee but it tasted terrible thanks to the iodine treated water.  We ate cookies for breakfast - those tasted fantastic!  I baked in a short day & a rest day since I wasn't sure how riding 45-50 miles everyday was going to be received.  Our butts thanked us.  Those were a long 13 miles on the trail followed by some nice hills climbs in the baking sun to Sharpsburg.
Old Mill Along the Trail
Aah, concrete!
We got to town by noon & stopped at the Battlefield Market for lunch & gatorade. I texted Miriam at the B&B & asked what time we could come by.  She said anytime which was great because we were in desperate need of a shower!

We stayed at the Inn at Antietam.  Since it was mid-week we had our pick of the rooms.  They offered us their hose to wash off our bikes.  Everything was covered in a layer of dust!  Once we got our bikes & bags washed down we took our turn.  They didn't make us use the garden hose but I wouldn't have blamed them!  When you don't have access to facilities for a couple of days you really appreciate them.  The shower was fantastic!  We also did a load of laundry.  No one likes reusing bike shorts.

Inn at Antietam - Highly Recommend!
The B&B was next to the Antietam National Cemetery.   After doing the laundry we walked over to check it out.  It was overwhelming.  If you are like me & didn't pay much attention in US History - Antietam is the bloodiest day in battle in US history. 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing in 12 hours.   It is mind boggling when you really think about this. We planned to head to the Visitors Center the next day & ride our bikes around the park to learn more.

Only Union Soldiers are Buried Here
We ate at Captain Benders Tavern.  Steve had the fish & chips & I had the spinach salad with shrimp.   We split an order of pickle fries.  The servings were huge & the food was really good.  After dinner we walked around town.  We were surprised at how much traffic there was for such a small town.  We later found out it is a cut through to get from I-81 to I-70.  On Miriam & Will's recommendation we stopped at Nutter's Ice Cream.  The servings were huge & 2 scoops of ice cream was only $2.75.  I thought it was a mistake.  The ice cream was awesome!

There are confederate flags everywhere
Nutter's Ice Cream!
Day 4 - Inn at Antietam

Day 4 Mileage = 10.02 miles, 8.6 mph

Today was our planned rest day.  We started our day with breakfast at the Inn.  We had eggs, bacon & potatoes.  Miriam also makes the best breads.  Both days a fresh loaf still warm from the oven was waiting for us.  The coffee was fantastic as well.  All local.  Everything was yummy.

After our leisurely breakfast we got ready to ride to the Antietam Visitor Center.  We spent about an hour & a half there.  There was a ~30 minute video that summarized the battle.  There were also a museum with artifacts from the battle.  So much information.

After we toured the facility we headed back out on our bikes to ride the car tour loop.  There were so many memorials along the way & plaques explaining how the battle started & proceeded throughout the day.  The loop was 10 miles but took us at least 2 hours with all the stops along the way. There was so much to take in.

The landscape is virtually the same today as it was in 1862.
It's hard to imagine 20,000 soldiers were killed, injured or went missing here in 1 day 
Sunken Road aka Bloody Lane 

View from the Tower
One of the many plaques that explained the attacks 
Some showed the casualties as well
We headed back to the B&B early afternoon.  I needed to spend some time getting our DC plans in place.  Our original plan was to go back to Cumberland on Saturday.  I didn't want to book the train before I was confident we would be able to make it to DC. I spent at least an hour getting everything reserved.  Item to note - book Amtrak in advance if you plan to bring your bike. The trains were fully booked Thursday, Friday & Saturday.  Thankfully they still had reservations for Sunday.  Once the train was booked I made DC hotel reservations & changed our Cumberland hotel reservations.

Once that was all set Miriam drove us over to Shepherdstown, WV so we could have dinner & explore the downtown area.  It is about 3 miles from Sharpsburg.  We ate dinner at the Blue Moon Cafe.  Fantastic outdoor patio that has a creek running through it.  Steve got the reuben & I had a baked brie & apple plate.  After walking around a bit we headed back to the B&B.

If you are going to stay in the area, Sherperdstown has a lot more going on but Sharpsburg was nice since it was so close to the Battlefield.  Not to mention the B&B was fantastic. The owners of the Inn at Antietam were so generous letting us wash our bikes, do laundry, washed our water bottles in their dishwasher to get the iodine stink out and dropped us off & picked us up in Sherperdstown.

Blue Moon Cafe Patio
Sheperdstown, WV
Tiny House, Sheperdstown, WV

Day 5 - Inn at Antietam to Comfort Suites, Leesburg, VA

Day 5 Mileage = 46.59 miles, 8.0 mph

We woke up to rain on Thursday so we figured we would have a later start on the trail.   We had another yummy breakfast before we packed up.  Miriam sent us off with 2 homemade scones which we ate along the trail. The rain stopped by about 8:30 & we were on the road by 9:30.  I was nervous because the roads were still wet & it was mostly downhill to the trail.  Everything turned out fine.  We made it to the trail with no issues.

Our goal for the day was to get to Leesburg.  We thought our butts were fine since we had no issues the day before but as soon as we got back on the bumpity bump bump trail we knew it was going to be another long, slow day of riding.  Holy shit, that trail is rough and I really don't think there is anyway to train for it, other than riding 5 hours a day on that type of trail.  Who's got time for that?

Anyhoo, we decided we were going to Brunswick for our lunch break & skip Harpers Ferry due to the complexity of leaving your bikes on the trail & walking over the bridge to WV.  It is supposed to be a fantastic town but I wasn't comfortable leaving everything so far out of sight.
You can see the bike racks & that is the bridge you cross over
Cool old tunnel
The trail was a bit muddy from the rain
It took us about 3.5 hours to get to Brunswick.  This is one of the few towns that is right off the trail.  No long hill climbing required.  We tried to eat at Beans in the Belfry but they were doing some drilling work on the inside that was so loud they ran everyone off.  Instead, we ate at the Potomac Street Grill.  We split a Cuban & a Reuben sandwich, both were decent.  After about an hour or so we were back on the trail.

Brunswick, MD

Brunswick, MD
Back on the trail we came across a cool restored aqueduct.  So many neat things you would never see unless you travel this trail.

Old stone on the left, new stone on the right
About 1 mile before we reached the last HB campsite prior to reaching White's Ferry it started to rain & not a light rain.  It poured.  We were very lucky since this was the first time we got wet.  We just rode through it.  When we got to the HB there was already someone set up.  We chatted with him for a few minutes & learned he was on day 1 of his travels.  He was doing a bucket list item - riding from Hagerstown, MD to Key West.  He had been planning it for years & finally was able to do it.  Pretty damn awesome!

We rode on to the next HB which was about 1 mile past White's Ferry.  There was no one set up there but there really wasn't good trees to hang our hammocks up close to one another.  We were soaking wet & we knew it was going to be chilly that night.  We decided to call Comfort Suites to see if they had any rooms & would pick us up at the ferry.  We were in luck!  We rode back to the Ferry & waited for the shuttle to pick us up.  It took them about 25 minutes to get there with traffic. When we were waiting for the driver to arrive it started raining again. At that point we knew we made the right decision.  The drive with no traffic was about 10 minutes but there was no way in hell I would ride that on my bike due to traffic.  We got to the hotel about 7pm.  The hotel had a bike wash which was smart for them because our bikes were covered in mud!  We washed everything off & then rolled our gear up to the room.  After showers we walked across the street for dinner at Del Rio Mexican restaurant.
Whites Ferry Store & Grill - There have been some bigs floods over the years
Yay, we are wet & on a ferry heading to a hotel
Our bikes - $2 each to ride the ferry
It takes maybe 5 minutes to get across
Day 6 - Comfort Suites, Leesburg, VA to Washington, DC

Day 6 Mileage = 40.13 miles, 8.0 mph

We reserved the shuttle for 8AM.  We were up about 6:30 again.  We didn't sleep in at all on this vacation.  It was hard to sleep in when you are sleeping in a hammock, staying at a B&B that starts cooking delicious smelling food at 7AM & knowing you have to catch a shuttle in the morning.

We ate breakfast at the hotel.  We had everything loaded up and downstairs by 8AM.  We were at the shuttle by about 8:15 & across the river on the trail by 8:40AM.

We were about 35 miles from DC and you could tell by the amount of foot traffic on the trail.  Up until this point we saw very little people on the trail.  We saw only a few cyclists & walkers/runners each day.  We saw maybe 5 through cyclists total over the week.  The transition back into civilization can be difficult sometimes.

The trail was absolutely beautiful in this area.  The locks were full with water in this area.  The Potomac was nearing Great Falls which is absolutely gorgeous.  We stopped at Great Falls to eat our scones from the B&B.  Then we locked up our bikes & explored the Great Falls boardwalk.

Lock full of water

Working Lock
The trail had mile markers every mile

Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center
After taking in the Great Falls we started the last part of our journey into DC.  The trail was clearly marked until around Mile 1.  In Georgetown, you have to be on the lookout for a sign that crosses over the canal.  It is extremely narrow in this section & crosses several streets.  We passed locks 4 through 1 in this area.  I walked my bike through a good portion of this area because it crossed several streets & there were a lot of pedestrians.  The C&O dead ends at the Rock Creek Trail which runs next to Rock Creek & Potomac Parkway.  You follow the Rock Creek Trail to Thompson Boat House. You ride past the boat house & you will see the most beautiful site - the C&O 0 Mile marker!  We had arrived!!!
Mile Marker 0
After taking a few pictures we made our way to the hotel.  It was Friday mid-afternoon of Labor Day weekend.  Steve loved the fact that we were riding into DC with all of our gear during rush hour. Me not so much.  I mean, it was totally cool but nerve wracking navigating traffic, directions, etc.  It was super cool when we rode around a curve & saw this:

We rode our bikes 184 miles & now we are riding into DC!
We stayed at the Fairfield Inn in Chinatown.  It had available rooms for both Friday & Saturday plus it was near Amtrak.  Surprisingly, the rate was less than the B&B we stayed at.  I was shocked.  We checked into our hotel, showered & headed out for our just rewards:

Capital City Brewing
After dinner we walked the town. If felt good to be upright.  We took in some of the sights:

We were in bed ridiculously early but it had been a long week plus we had all day Saturday to explore.

Day 7 - Washington, DC

Day 7 Mileage = 8.99 miles, 7.3 mph

Saturday is Steve's run day & he had 9 miles on his schedule.  I rode along with him as he ran.  It was a pretty cool way to see DC.  There were very few people out that early, mostly runners, cyclists and a few sightseers.
Our Saturday Running/Bike Tour
The Outer Edge of Hurricane Clouds - No rain for us, only some winds

Afterwards we grabbed breakfast at the hotel.  We got cleaned up & headed for the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. I really wanted to see the Space Shuttle Discovery but it was in Chantilly, VA which was difficult to get to without vehicles.  Next trip! We saw D-Day Normandy at the IMAX. There are so many museums, exhibits & memorials to see while in DC it is really hard to decide which ones to go to.   Love, love DC!

We ate Thai for lunch near the hotel & then took an afternoon nap.  We booked the DC City Lights Tour.  Figured that would keep us up late for once & get to see a lot of the city at night.

The bus picked us up at the hotel about 7:15.  The tour was about 3 hours & stopped at 9 different sights.  The actual time was closer to 5 hours since the bus picked up / dropped off at several hotels. That was a bit of a pain since we didn't get back to our hotel until almost midnight.

DC is beautiful at night. If I was to do it again, I would have purchased one of the hop on /  hop off bus tours that included a twilight tour.  It would have been more flexible & given us time to explore the sights more.  This tour was good if you only have a few hours & want to maximize your visit.

Washington Monument at Dusk
US Capitol
White House
Martin Luther King Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
Marin Corps War Memorial - aka Iwo Jima Flag Raisers

Day 8 - Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD

After breakfast at the hotel we walked down to the Amtrak station to scope things out for our train ride back to Cumberland.  It seemed super easy to get to from our hotel & into the station. No stairs/elevators needed to get to gate.  Outside the station, we saw one of the oddest sights.  Let's just say someone must have had a wild & crazy night but was bumming in the morning!

As Steve said on FB, Can you find the hidden gem?
We entered the Amtrak station at the far left entrance in this picture.  The train doesn't leave DC until 4:05 PM but started the boarding process ~3:20PM.  We got there super early & just hung out for a couple of hours.  When it was time to board they let all the bikes get in line first.

Amtrak Station
Queuing up to board
Queuing up to board
When it was time start boarding they let the bikes load first.  The only problem was the bike car was broken & they decided to not delay the train to fix it.  So they had us board the bikes into a passenger car which caused some confusion initially.  Once the agent that knew what was going on arrived it went smoothly.  They loaded the bikes by destination.  So Pittsburg folks loaded first, then Cumberland, followed by Harpers Ferry.  We were able to put all of our bags in the luggage compartment with our bikes.  We then were seated in another car.

The train ride to Cumberland was 3 hours with a few quick stops.  The train was on schedule.  Since this trains final destination was Chicago it had sleeper cards & a dinner car.  We didn't bother with dinner on the train.  The seats were super comfy but they had the air cranking so we were cold and our jackets were with the bikes.

The stop in Cumberland is about 9 minutes.  We were able to get our bikes & gear unloaded with no problem.  There were more bikes getting on at Cumberland, presumably going to Pittsburg.  Overall, the Amtrak experience was great.  I highly recommend this if you are traveling with bikes.  My only suggestion is to book in advance so you can travel on your desired dates.

Once back in Cumberland it was a 1/2 mile ride back to our hotel where we left the car.  Tomorrow would be the drive back to Lexington & vacation would be officially over.  Back to reality.

Check out my other post on C&O Canal - Gear, Tips & Helpful Resources.


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