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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day Four: Oldtown's Schoolhouse Kitchen and Cumberland MD

Today was a planned light day, and that carried through although not as expected. The goal was to ride 40 miles to Cumberland, do laundry and housekeeping, and have a few leisure hours in preparation for the Ascent of Mount Doom climb up the Eastern Continental Divide.

We woke to find our campsite occupied by butterflies - big ones, little ones, subdued and wild ones. We each made our morning ablutions and breakfasts, in no rush with a light schedule ahead.

We rode to the PawPaw Tunnel, which was impressive as always. I should mention that in my opinion, the southern end of the PawPaw Tunnel's walkway is the most dangerous place on the C&O Canal trail - it's narrow, slippery when wet, and a significant unprotected dropoff. Just saying. Transition through the tunnel was easy; flashlights are needed.

Continued along to OldTown, departing the trail and turning right to get to 19210 Opessa St SE, Oldtown, MD 21555 looking for Schoolhouse Kitchen. (301-478-5189) This is an old high school building that the town couldn't find a buyer for, so a local family bought it - they use the shops for a antique car business, keep the gym open so the local kids can play basketball in it, and run a restaurant out of the cafeteria. This is one of my favorite stops along the C&O Canal. It's mildy kitchy-quirky but completely mainstream.

We parked our bikes in the entranceway to the old high school, and there were some kittens hanging out that were interested in our bikes. We ordered food, normal diner/grill fare, and it was very good - fresh, tasty, hot. I always really enjoy eating there, and the school cafeteria vibe makes it worth the half-mile ride from the trail.

After we ate QR got a text message from her mother asking if we were in the path of the hurricane that was going on. When we turned on the smartphones we got a bit of a surprise: a major storm was coming our way.

We looked outside and was getting dark, and so we returned and asked if we could hang out for a while. They made us welcome as long as we wanted to stay, and told us we could take any spot we found comfortable. We studied the radar and figured there was no way to beat it, and that we could wait two hours and then reach Cumberland in daylight behind it, so we chose to stay warm and dry while the storm blew past.

It was a doozy. A few bicyclists came in off the trail thoroughly soaked; one said the canal was flooded, filled up to the sides and overflowing, and the trail was just underwater. Most of us took this opportunity to take a nap.

Later, when the major storm passed but it was still raining, we got back out there and starting riding to Cumberland. What was very nice was the folks at SChoolhouse Kitchen saw us about to launch into the rain and told us we were welcome to spend the night if we wanted to, I think they were concerned for us and their hospitality was genuine and generous. So, Heroes of the Day: Schoolhouse Kitchen, Oldtown MD and QR's Mom.

The trail had drained but was still wet; the canal was filled with water, up to the brim. About halfway to Cumberland the rain stopped and the skies cleared. We got into town late.

We went directly to the Crabby Pig restaurant so we could eat a great meal before the town shut down, and we were all pleased with dinner. Then we checked into the hotel, which is very bike friendly (they seem to exist for bike trail traffic). It just seemed like a good idea to get very dry and get a good night's rest before climbing Mount Savage the next day. Laundry machines, hot tub at the pool, bathtubs and beds; civilization felt good.

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