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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day Two, MP35 to 101: Williamsport, MD

05/27/12 65m

Woke early and it was already hot and humid. In an amazing demonstration of skill and bon vivance, CA surprised the group by baking fresh scones as an eye-opener, which was a welcome treat. As I was breaking camp and packing up I felt like I was out of sequence and lacking any rhythm, which I expect will come with some more experience.

I skipped making breakfast in camp (which would have been oatmeal) in hope of getting something at the nearby store at White's Ferry. A few of us rode out to White's Ferry where the store was just opening, and apparently their food offerings were very limited because they only open for the season on Memorial Day. Dang. Departed and pressed on to the Mini-Mart at Point of Rocks.

The trail continued to be muddy in spite of the recent dry spell. Other campers and riders said, White's Ferry to Harper's Ferry (mp 35-65) is the muddiest section of the trail, it'll get better. I considered the flawed genius of the fictional Ice Nine, a military polymorph that would phase-change the standing water in marshes into ice in order to facilitate surface transport. (It was later found to have the unfortunate side effect of freezing the entire planet's water supply.) If I could have sprinkled a little "instant crushed limestone" over the C&O I'd have done it.

Reached Point of Rocks and the promise of breakfast, only to find my favorite MiniMart closed, shuttered, and out of business. While the loss of the business was no doubt an inconvenience for those involved, the loss of breakfast was taking on a tragic proportion for me. Skipping breakfast through breaking camp, leaving White's Ferry without eating, and the disappointment at Point of Rocks was foolish of me.

Continued to Brunswick, which has not had much trail-focused activity in the past. Found lunch at Mummer's Diner, which was OK. Saw a new bike shop, Three Points Cycle; straight into town until the main drag, it's two doors down on the left.

Continued riding to Harper's Ferry. It's an indication of the day's mugginess that when the trail's direction turned at MP60 and a headwind blew down the trail, I was very happy to have the breeze.

At about MP80 RS pitched his camp for the night. With all the humidity he was having a significant problem with his seat interface, was experiencing great difficulty, and decided to pitch camp and reverse the next day.

Approaching the WideWater Detour at MP84, I was surprised to see a significant stand of bamboo growing along the road. There is a long-standing trail closure between MP84 and -88, and a published route along local roads that brings you back to the trail. Others have seen fit to use alternative road routes to continue into Williamsport. CA took the published detour and the full trail; QR and DB took Route63 into Williamsport; I choose Route68.

There was an impressive cloud building ahead, but I thought I would get to town before it. (Operator-induced error)

This weather radar image shows the line of weather about 45 minutes before it (and I) simultaneously arrived in Williamsport.

My cloud-bike-time-speed estimation skills are not fully developed non-existant, and I was still outside of the edge of town when the air got cool, the wind changed direction, and a gentle mist started to fall. It was a pleasant change for about a minute, then it turned ugly and the rain turned heavy and the winds were strong. I was looking for an awning at a church or business when I gave up and rolled up a residential driveway uninvited and put my bike under the meager cover of the roof overhang. The house seemed to be unoccupied.

I took out my space-blanket and settled in to watch the storm. A few doors down, an aluminum shed blew off its concrete floor and flew into the treeline, where it struggled to retain its form for a moment before crumpling in the wind and falling away in a hundred pieces. Down the street a barn was shifted off its foundation. Lots of sideways rain, very low visability, whipping foliage, lightning (cloud-ground and cloud-cloud), it was quite a blow.

The people in the adjacent house saw me (or perhaps all the blinking lights on my bike, which I'd turned on for the on-road detour) and invited me to come over and take shelter on their covered porch. A few minutes later I was sitting in a rocking chair, well under their porch roof, enjoying their hospitality. They invited me inside but I couldn't go into their house in my condition. Heroes of the day: Mr. and Mrs. Curtis Eyler of Williamsport, MD, who went out of their way to show kindness and hospitality to a stranger in the dark. They walk the talk.

After an hour the violent weather had passed and it was just raining now, so I took my leave and rode into Williamsport, hoping to find a meal before the town shut down for the night. I went to Tony's NY Pizza (10 East Salisbury Street) since I'd been there before. I showed up cold and wet and probably quite a sight but they seated me and brought me soup and a hot meal and it was wonderful. Twice now, they've done real well for me on a bike trip.

Although we were in cellphone contact, our group was separated by the storm. QR and DB were at the campground at MP101 when it hit; CA had encountered trees blocking his path and reversed to the Red Roof Inn; I rode to the trailhead, decided not to continue in the dark, and took shelter under the awning at the NPS Visitors Center in Cushwa Basin. (This was the second time I've been under the same awning, I was also here in the rain in 1994.)

I slept very well as the rain fell around me. Sixty-five miles is a very long distance on a loaded bike and a somewhat muddy trail.

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