Another Beautiful Sunrise

This morning I started my commute before sunrise once again and was treated to a beautiful rising of the sun. The sky went from darkness to several shades of purple, orange, and red. Not to be outdone, the sun rose above the Maryland hills across from me on the Potomac and seemed to set the water aflame with its bright orange glow.
Although the sunrise keeps marching later in the morning until January, this will be one of the latest sunrises this year due to the falling back to standard time. This morning the sun rose at 7:32 AM, something it will not do again until next year after the "fall-back" in time this Sunday (Friday's sunrise is 7:34 AM -- Monday's is at 6:38 AM). The latest sunrise after the "fall back" will be 7:27 AM from December 31st to January 10 and after the "spring forward" there are 3 later sunrises from 7:31 AM-7:28 AM on March 8, 9, and 10.
The dark in the morning (at least temporarily) is exchanged for dark at night next week. Tonight the sun sets at 6:11 PM, but on Monday it drops below the horizon at 5:05 PM quickly reaching its earliest sunset time of 4:46 PM from December 1-12. Something many people don't realize is while the Winter solstice is the shortest day from sunrise to sunset the earliest sunset comes beforehand and the latest sunset comes afterward.
Thankfully, my generator hub powered headlight and taillight are in working order and are being supplemented with some additional lights front and rear. As the evenings plunge into darkness and the outside temperatures follow, the trails become less crowded and more peaceful. I will miss the sun, but I look forward to quiet commutes beside the Potomac shimmering beneath the moonlight.

Sunrise Over The Potomac

One of the best things about bike commuting is that you can jump off the saddle and enjoy your surroundings in a way that just isn't possible with a car or transit. This morning my commute started before dawn, a consequence of the shortening days before the switch from daylight savings time. As I got to one of the more picturesque sections of my ride along the Mount Vernon Trail at Dyke Marsh I saw the sun starting to peek over the clouds spreading its golden rays upward making beautiful reflections in the placid marsh below. I got off the bike, pulled out the phone, and snapped a few pictures. The one above is right before the sun made it above the clouds. Below is a picture taken shortly thereafter. What a beautiful way to start the day.

An Unexpected Delay

This morning as I was commuting in to work on my bike I saw a backup where there usually isn't one at 7th and Constitution Streets, Northwest. I noticed the tell-tale lights of a motorcade, an all-too-common sight here in the District, but then I noticed something very unusual.
Evidently there was a group calling themselves the "Grass March Cowboy Express" that was apparently en route to the Capitol protesting the Bureau of Land Management closing grazing areas in Nevada due to drought. Apparently they started their ride in California and have been taking highways on their way to DC. The Post has more information about it here.
All told, it held me up for about two minutes, but it was a great example of the many little things that make commuting by bike in DC a fun adventure. The cars nearby seemed quite unhappy at the brief delay, but I took the opportunity to pull out my phone and take some pictures as they passed.

A Return to Cycling and a Million Meter Month

As you may have noticed, I have not posted to this blog in quite some time. In fact, this is a rebirth of the blog on a new platform. The blog had gone dormant after the hosting provider I was using stopped supporting the language in which the blog engine I developed was written. I just never got around to re-writing or migrating it. As time passed, I was still biking. but I wasn't writing about it.
In 2012, everything changed with the birth of my beautiful daughter. At first I was just adjusting to the big change in my life that parenthood brings. Once I started getting into the swing of things I became the pick-up and drop-off person for her weekday trips to day care. While I did have a bike trailer, I was concerned about a portion of my commute that is on a six-lane highway. Traffic of that magnitude isn't something that bothers me, however, the idea of biking on that stretch of road with my daughter in tow kept me from getting back on the saddle, until this Spring. Sitting on my posterior one day on the Metro, longing to be out in the sunshine with the wind blasting in my ears, I remembered something: I had a bike rack. In fact I've had one for years. I almost smacked my forehead with my palm with the simplicity of the realization. I could take my daughter to school in the morning on four wheels, park, and then continue my journey on two. So I decided to do just that.
Friday, May 16, 2014 was Bike to Work Day, an event I always loved attending, so I set that as my goal. Since it had been two years since I biked with any regularity, I wondered if I still had it in me. So on April 19 I did a test ride from my house to the office and back. I definitely had lost some speed, but I was more than able to do it. The following week I did my first commute in two years and kept at it. I even biked in on Bike to Work Day in torrential rains that caused flash floods severe enough to submerge my pedals in water in a few parts of the commute. There were only a few people who actually made the trip that day, and the BTWD staff were in a DC Circulator bus adjacent to Freedom Plaza staying dry. The hardcore commuter in me was back and I felt some pride in getting one of those t-shirts this year. From there I really started commuting in earnest. I got my commute time down by over a half hour from the first day and started racking up the miles.
The next milestone was somewhat unexpected. I had a co-worker introduce me to Strava, an web/phone application that allows you to track your miles and compete with yourself (and others, if that's your thing). At first I was skeptical about its utility (I already used Google MyTracks to keep track of mileage). However, after using it for a few days I really enjoyed the avalanche of data it provided. I started beating my own times for segments as my fitness level kept rising, and I started enrolling in distance challenges on the site.
In July, I noticed early on that I was blowing away my previous monthly mileage totals, and I set a goal of 400 miles for myself. I blew that away faster than I thought I could. The goal was keeping my nose to the grindstone and my backside in the saddle. Soon I passed 500 miles, and I saw myself rising in the rankings of the worldwide distance challenge. Since it was international in nature, it was measured in kilometers, and I noticed that I was fast approaching 1,000 km. To get there I had to add some extra distance to some commutes, but the idea of having biked 1,000,000 meters in a month was a good motivator. In the end I traveled 1,012 kilometers, or 629 miles (635 in reality, as the app ended up not logging some miles I biked). Not too shabby for my third full month of biking after 2 years off.
It will be hard to top this one in regular commuting. Life tends to throw appointments, vacations, illnesses, and other unplanned events into the mix. Getting so many sustained days of commuting in a calendar month is tough. The subsequent months have been lower, but not by a large margin. No matter how many miles I log, it has been great being back on two wheels.

Pittsburgh to DC Bike Tour 2009: The Complete GAP and C&O Canal

We arrive at the end of our journey

A year ago, Dan and I took our first long distance bike tour, traveling on the full Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, heading Northbound. While there were some initial challenges, we had a great time on the trip, and we both wanted to do the full C&O and GAP trail, making the trip from Pittsburgh to Washington (and then onto my house in Virginia). Once we got the scheduling figured out, we set the date and were joined by Dan's girlfriend Trish. We budgeted 9 days to make the journey, ensuring we could have a relatively leisurely pace of no more than 40 miles a day. As it turned out we made the complete trip in 8 days and had a great time. Here is the story of our journey through 4 states and the District of Columbia.

Day 1 - 40 miles

My Bike on the GAPMy wife and I celebrated our first year of marriage by visiting Pittsburgh and staying at the Omni hotel. We celebrated the day in style having a great dinner at the Monterrey Bay Fish Grotto on top of Mount Washington and watching some fireworks from high above the city. The next day was to be the first day of the tour and my wife graciously agreed to take us to the trail head in McKeesport, a few miles out of the city center. There is no real bike friendly way to get there, only 55 mph highways with no shoulders.

Me on the GAPWe left out early in the morning and picked up Dan and Trish, making our way to the trail head. After loading down our bikes and saying our goodbyes, we started our journey Southward. The first few miles of the trail were not particularly well marked and were surrounded by unattractive industrial areas. Once we finally got out of the area of industry we got a little more tree cover and faded into a mostly sylvan, if unremarkable setting.

The summer heat was in full force as we made our trip and we were glad to reach the River's Edge campground 40 miles into our journey. The high quality surface of the GAP made those miles go particularly quickly, so we had time to hop into their refreshingly cool pool and cool ourselves off. We set up our tents and got ready for the evening. In the adjacent site, a bike touring father and his daughter arrived on a tandem and chatting with them we found that the father had done several cross country bike tours in his youth. He now teaches biology and raises some crops at his farm. This was his first tour in many years, but they were having a great time.

We broke out my MSR Dragonfly camp stove and cooked our dinners and made it to our tents in time to get shelter from a rather intense downpour. There were a few instances of thunder and lightning to keep things interesting, but my tent performed admirably, keeping the rain out and my gear dry.

Day 2 - 50 miles

Trish on the GAPWe woke up in the morning to a very damp camp, with the soaking rains making sure everything got washed off the night before. The forecast was for more rain, and the meteorologists would not be proven wrong. After making breakfast (oatmeal and trail mix for me), taking down our tents, and loading down our trusty steeds we continued our journey South, happy for the dry conditions and hoping they would last. Our legs were feeling good after the nights rest and we made some good distance during the day. As afternoon approached the sun's rays started to bake us and we were happy to see a swimming hole at Ohiopyle where the cool waters of the Youghioheney River. We had lunch and a refreshing dip. A little excitement was had when Dan saw someone messing with my bike, but he was able to scare the guy off and we continued on our way.

Dan and Trish on the GAPUnlike the C&O Canal with its free hiker/biker sites every 5-10 miles, the GAP does not have a lot of camping options and free-camping is prohibited. This meant we absolutely had to make certain mileage targets, no matter what was tossed into our path. Our goal was Rockwood, and about 20 miles from the campsite there the skies opened up and rained upon us. Normally a little rain is not an issue, but on the crushed stone surface of the GAP, it meant our bikes and legs were getting coated with concrete-like slurry of rock and wetness. Riding became decidedly unpleasant, but with no other options we pressed on until we made Rockwood at milepost 43.

We did not look forward to setting up our still soaked tents in the downpour, so we looked at the signboard on the edge of town and decided to stay at a hostel in town. Interestingly enough, the town didn't have cell service, but they had a cell repeater by the signboard that worked within a 25 foot radius -- definitely helpful for calling up the various places regarding accommodations. The staff at the Hostel on Main in Rockwood was friendly and accommodating, and the nearby restaurant had some tasty pizza and calzones to warm us up. We availed ourselves of the dryer to make some of our gear a bit less soggy and enjoyed some nice hot showers and warm beds. This would be our only night not camping, but it was definitely a nice change of pace due to the weather. As fortune would have it, the only other occupants of the hostel were the father and daughter tandem tourists we had met at the last campsite. We had a great evening of conversation and exchanged many stories before calling it a night. The only downside to the place was its proximity to the railroad (literally in the back yard) which woke us up every hour or so. Even still we had a good night's stay.

Day 3 - 50 miles

Bridge on the GAP

After our soggy travels the day before it was not easy rousing us from our comfortable beds, so we hurried to make the 9AM closing time of the hostel, cutting it quite close. Breakfast was to be a rare departure from my usual oatmeal and trail mix -- leftover pizza was the order of the day, and it was almost as delicious the morning after as it was the night before. After loading our bikes we headed back to the now less soggy GAP and continued our Southward journey.

Wind Turbines near the GAPWe continued on the 100 mile climb to the top of the Continental Divide, and while the grade was not overly difficult, we definitely knew we were going uphill. Once we finally reached the Continental Divide we took some celebratory photos and prepared for the best downhill ride we would get during the entire trip. We descended about 1,700 feet in 20 miles and with my heavy load I was definitely out in front descending on the trail about 18-20 miles an hour. Profile of the elevation for our tourI got a good lead on Dan and Trish on the descent and with about ten miles to go the skies started to threaten with thunder and rain, so I took a chance to take shelter at a covered picnic table. Dan and Trish were not to lucky and got pretty wet, rejoining me about an hour later. While I waited out the rain I was joined by an older couple who were doing biking day trips on a vacation. We had a great conversation and parted ways when the rain went from a deluge to a mere trickle. As they were departing I was joined by Dan and Trish and I broke out the stove to make some warm food to warm them up.

Dan and Me at the Continental Divide on the GAPAfter lunch we made the final 10 mile descent into Cumberland and celebrated our completion of the GAP at Ed's Canal Pub where we had $2.50 drafts of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Anchor Steam. The place remains awesome. While we celebrated with our inexpensive pints, we were joined once again by the father daughter tandem touring team and we had a great conversation once again. After we had our fill of refreshment we set off down toward the C&O Canal to set up camp at one of the hiker/biker campsites.Scenes from near the summit of the GAP

The rains had made the towpath quite muddy in some sections making for a challenging ride at times. We decided to set up camp at Irons Mountain hiker/biker campsite, and as we did so the darkness of night fell upon us making the use of our headlights required to see what we were doing. Filled with beer and popcorn from Ed's Canal Pub we decided to skip dinner for the night and head straight to bed. After a 50 mile day our sleeping bags were quite inviting.

Me and Dan at the Mason Dixon Line on the GAP

Sign near the end of the GAP in Cumberland

Day 4 - 40 miles (20 net miles)

Irons Mountain Hiker Biker Campsite on the C&O CanalAlthough the weather had kept things interesting, we had been relatively lucky on the equipment side of things thus far on the trip. After making breakfast, breaking camp, and loading our bikes it was clear that this streak of good luck had come to an untimely close. Dan had fallen on his front wheel the previous night on the hilly terrain of the campsite and had thought nothing of it, but in the morning it was clear that his wheel had a broken spoke and was significantly out of true. I took out my spoke wrench and got his bike rolling again, but with no bike shop South on the trail for many miles, we made the decision to reverse course and go back the 10 miles into Cumberland to fix his wheel.

As it turned out his rim had been bent beyond repair, so the incredibly helpful mechanic at the bike shop at the end of the C&O named Hutch sold Dan a new wheel at a very favorable price. While I was there I thought it would be a good idea to get some grease in my speedplay frog pedals, and much to my surprise grease leaked out of the pedal body on one of the pedals. The pedal was very close to complete failure. Luckily Hutch was a certified speedplay dealer, and he used a pedal body he had in stock to do a free warranty repair for me. He also flushed out my kickstand with grease, making it move smoothly once again after being jammed with grit from the GAP. He definitely saved the day, and I'd recommend that shop to anyone in the area in a heartbeat.

While repairs were being made on our bikes we had lunch at the nearby Crabby Pig restaurant and then we continued Southward. As we continued on the C&O the muddy conditions made for some hard travelling. The mud was packing between my front fender and tire, making for a very hard ride that is akin to riding with the brakes on constantly. Even still we made our daily mileage target of 40 (even if it was only an effective 20 miles South).

We stopped at Purslane Run hiker/biker campground at mile 156, sharing the campsite with a couple guys from Lancaster county. All of us went for a swim in the Potomac and after the riding it was very refreshing. After our swim we made dinner and shared the campfire until dark when we got some much needed rest.

Day 5 - 45 miles

Paw Paw TunnelOur campsite was very close to Paw Paw Tunnel so after making our breakfast and loading our bikes we headed to the nearly mile long structure. Inside the tunnel the space was definitely optimized for the canal traffic and not the mule -- the towpath here was very narrow and with no internal lighting only a wooden guardrail protects you from a rather steep fall down into the canal. It gets incredibly dark in that tunnel, but thankfully my HID light was up for the task lighting the way.

Paw Paw TunnelAfter we got out of the tunnel it was a relatively short ride down to the legendary Bill's place for lunch. I had a hamburger and some delicious birch beer for lunch and we all enjoyed the colorful restaurant in its quirky glory. From there we continued South to Hancock to get some provisions at the grocery store there. To make good time and give ourselves a break from the incessant bumps of the C&O we took thje 22 mile Western Maryland Rail Trail with its glorious silken pavement. After getting our supplies we continued on the WMRT until we rejoined the C&O Canal eventually making our way to the North Mountain hiker/biker campsite near milepost 110. We made dinner and set up our tents and were surprised at the noise at the site. While train traffic had become a constant companion along the route, the mosquito drone of marine engines kept us up for a while as people on jet skis, boats, and other craft made their way past our site. Finally the noise subsided and we got a good night's rest.

Day 6 - 35 miles

Dan, Trish, and Me at Dam 5

As we made breakfast and broke camp we were eagerly awaiting our destination for the day -- Killiansburg Cave hiker/biker site. We deliberately made today's mileage shorter than usual so we could spend some quality time at this site. Last year Dan and I had a blast camping down by the water and swimming, and we hoped to do the same this year.

About 10 miles from our campsite was the town of Williamsport, home to one of our favorite little cafes on last year's trip, the Desert Rose. Just like last year we had service with a smile and great tasting food. We also picked up some other supplies in town before continuing back down the hill to the canal.

Dam 5The bumpy terrain of the C&O Canal puts a lot of strain on equipment, and in a flashback from last year, my saddle broke while riding toward the detour off trail that gives a big climb to get around the section that has been unable to be ridden on for years. As was the case last year, the metal rail sheared off near the mounting bracket on the seatpost. Channeling my inner MacGuyver, I was able to put both sides of the break into the bracket by sliding the seat forward, but this movement caused the saddle to pinch upward, making for an extremely unpleasant ride. I suffered through the ride and we made it to Killiansburg Cave where I was glad to give a rest to my disgruntled undercarriage.

Upon arriving at the campsite we realized that the campsite we loved so much was already occupied. We set up camp at the vastly inferior campsite near the trail and then consoled ourselves with a nice long swim in the water. It was absolutely wonderful in the water and we spent a good long time soaking and swimming.

After our swim we made dinner and retired for the evening, hoping to make an early trip to Harpers Ferry to buy a new saddle to replace the one that was a replacement from last year's tour.

Day 7 - 50 miles

Me in Harpers FerryAfter making breakfast and breaking camp at Killiansburg Cave, we continued South to Harpers Ferry with all due haste. It had become clear that I was going to need to replace the saddle, so when we reached the railroad and pedestrian bridge at Harpers Ferry we crossed in search of a replacement. In the past there was a general store that also was a bike shop, but when we got there we were informed that they had moved their bike operations 2 miles away. They had a very limited set of equipment for sale under a table, mostly tubes. After an in-depth search I finally found one remaining bike saddle in the back of the collection. I happily forked over the $26 for it and we made our way back to the C&O. The heat of the sun was intense, so I decided to continue on the broken saddle for the remaining five miles to Brunswick where I would be able to make the repairs in air conditioned comfort.

Dad at Beans in the BelfryWhen we arrived in Brunswick we made a direct line to Beans in the Belfry and started locking up our bikes when I was surprised to hear a familiar voice. My father, having read my status report the night before that I sent on my smartphone, had made the trip out to Brunswick to join us for a bite to eat. I was definitely pleasantly surprised. Beans in the Belfry was having their Sunday brunch with live jazz, and the food and drink were, as always, quite delicious. While waiting for my sandwich I made the necessary repairs to the seatpost, swapping saddles and getting the angles just right. After enjoying our repast and a bit of respite from the sweltering August sun we made our way back to the trail eager to make some good distance with my newly fixed saddle.

We made the distance from Brunswick to White's Ferry in a very short time, cranking on all eight cylinders with our bellies full of energy and my backside reveling in the comfort of a new saddle. Once at White's Ferry we got some cold drinks and took a brief break before heading back onto the trail with our goal of making the last Hiker/Biker campsite on the C&O, Horsepen Branch at mile 26.

We made it with sunlight to spare, however, there was no handle on the pump (the only site we noted without one on the entire trail). This meant we had to make do with the water we had on our bikes, and unfortunately, that wasn't a whole lot. Luckily the following morning we would reach a source of tap water in about 10 miles, and we had just enough to reach that point. After making dinner and a fire we retired for the evening taking refuge in our tents from a particularly mosquito infested site for our last night of the trip.

Day 8 - 45 miles

Great Falls

Great Blue Heron on the C&O TowpathOn the last day of the journey we woke up and did the morning ritual for the last time, fueling our bodies, and preparing our bikes for the last 45 mile leg of our journey. Our first stop was ten miles down the road at the Great Falls Visitor center where we used their bathrooms to fill up our nearly empty water containers. Here Dan saw some people he had spoken with earlier in the trip from Switzerland, conversing with them in their native tongue, French.

Dan and Trish at Great FallsJust a short trip down the road was Great Falls itself, and the three of us went on the catwalks over the falls and saw the torrents of water making their way over the rocky structure. After taking the requisite photographs and admiring nature's handiwork, we continued on our journey to the South, biking through what may be my favorite part of the entire canal towpath, the widewater section. The scenery in this area makes you think that you're somewhere out west with a rugged rock face abuting a serene lake, but in reality you're less than 14 miles from Georgetown.

Me and Dan at Great FallsContinuing down the towpath we made our way to Fletcher's Cove, where we had a cold drink and I indulged in a hot dog. Then it was time for the final 3 miles on the towpath (we decided to stay on it instead of taking the Capital Crescent). Finally, within 300 feet of milepost zero we were stopped by security. As it turned out the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in the building adjacent to the trail, so they would not let us take the last little bit of the journey. Thankfully I was familiar with the area, so we simply took a couple block detour and made it to the photo opportunity by the sign.

At the end of the C&O Canal

Plaque at the end of the C&O CanalNow it was time to brave the 95 degree heat and head home. Our first stop was at Gravelly Point where we watched some planes take off and land, and then we made our way to Old Town Alexandria where we treated ourselves to some Ben and Jerry's ice cream down on Union Street. After continuing on the trail and making a stop at Belle Haven Marina to top off our water bottles we finally made our way to my house after many a difficult climb (due to the heavy load we were carrying). Once home we unloaded our bikes and headed straight for the showers to get clean and cool off. Once clean we cracked open some of my first batch of home brew and enjoyed the comfort of the couch after over a week in the outdoors. Including side trips into towns we travelled over 360 miles in 8 days and had a wonderful time.

The 2008 50 States Tour

On October 11, 2008, I set out to ride all 50 States in the union over the course of 100 kilometers, including Alaska and Hawaii. Obviously this was not a coast-to-coast affair with water crossings, instead I joined the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and several friends to bike on each and every state named avenue in the District of Columbia. It started out cool in the morning and I was eager to start the ride. The starting point had plenty of sports drinks, powerbars, and bananas. After signing in and waiting for a while I saw some of my friends arrive and shortly thereafter we headed out on our ride.
Aaron brought his home-made tall bike along for the ride and easily conquered the route. We went at a comfortable pace over the initially reasonable terrain downtown, making a detour for the IMF meeting that was going on that day, but still hitting all the streets on our manifest. As the route progressed we eventually crossed over the Anacostia river and started to make our rather large ascent up Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue looping around until we got back to Fort Dupont Park where we had a glorious descent that sent us screaming down to the side of the Anacostia river. We got some water at Anacostia Park and then made our way back to the other side of the river toward Capitol Hill where lunch was being provided for us by WABA and California Tortilla Kitchen. From there we went north past Gallaudet University crossing New York Avenue, where I had my first mechanical issue. My chain jumped off the front chainring and stuck between the chainring and the chainstay. It was really stuck in there, but after some assistance from my friend Nathan I was on my way.
Unfortunately, that way was up, up, and more up. Once past Catholic University the climb up Hawaii Avenue was certainly memorable. Then it was North, almost to Maryland and up around Walter Reed where Alaska Avenue (an amazingly short avenue) can be found. Then it was off down into Rock Creek Park ... and back up again for a tour of Barnaby Woods, Chevy Chase (DC), and Friendship Heights. From there we went through American University's campus to do a incredibly fast descent half way down Arizona Avenue, only to be followed by an immediate climb up the same height to University Terrace -- all in the last 5 miles -- pretty brutal.
Finally we made our way down hill with a few modest climbs back to the starting point where we then set off for Bourbon in Adams Morgan to celebrate the ride, refuel with some good food, and drink to our success. The ride was definitely a challenge, but also a lot of fun.

The Complete C&O Canal

Dan and Me on the Monocacy River AqueductShortly after my wife and I got back from our honeymoon in the Caribbean, my best man Dan and I set out on a journey up the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. I had excess of leave from work that I needed to use and he was off from school for that week, so we decided to bike tour our way up the Potomac River. The weather could not have been better, and despite early injuries and equipment failures we were able to make it all the way to the trail's terminus at mile 184.5.

Day 1 (9/18/2008): Home to Marble Quarry H/B
50 miles

We started out early in the morning to get a jump on our journey, but not as early as we would have liked. Our bikes were loaded to the gills with way more camping gear and clothing than we actually needed. We headed into Washington and made our way to the Canal along the Potomac and continued on until we reached Great Falls. We got some hot dogs and Gatorade and took in the falls afterward before heading back on our way.

My knee started to hurt shortly thereafter from all the weight being towed by my bike, so Dan took some of the load off for me and we continued onward. Right before White's Ferry our first equipment failure happened -- my saddle, which had been with me for around 8,000 miles, finally broke one of its rails. Thankfully it was servicable enough to ride, but by no means comfortable.

Great FallsWe took a lengthy rest stop at White's Ferry and ended up talking to a gentleman who was sitting on the bench outside of the convenience store there. He ran in and got us some bottles of water, and later identified himself as the captain of the ferry. We told him about our trip plans and about my equipment failure and one of his co-workers took out his bike and pulled the seat post off, giving me his saddle. I asked him how much he wanted for it, but he would not take money -- instead he asked that I "pay it forward". If the guys at White's Ferry read this, I once again extend my heartfelt thanks. I purchased some Advil -- which slowly started to help my aching knee.

Refueled and re-saddled, we headed out into the quickly darkening evening and set up our camp at Marble Quarry H/B. There were two other tents set up there, and they graciously allowed us to set up there. Night fell quickly, and the heat of the evening made it one of the more unpleasant evenings for sleeping. We had my tent's fly installed, which wasn't a great idea with the heat -- a mistake we would not make again. The mosquitos were out in force but eventually we were able to kill them enough to get a reasonable night's sleep.

Day 2 (9/19/2008): Marble Quarry H/B to Killiansburg Cave H/B
40 Miles

Beans in the Belfry in Brunswick

After we got our start the following morning we made our way toward Brunswick, MD where I had been to a wonderful coffee shop called Beans in the Belfry on a previous trip up the canal. My knee started acting up again, so it was fairly slow going. I had another ibuprofen on me, but I made the mistake of not taking it then, which only added to the discomfort. Around the Monocacy Aqueduct we met some members of the Bike Patrol who provided us with a map and some helpful information. We rode with them for a while until just before Brunswick. Eventually we made it to Beans in the Belfry where Dan and I pigged out on a lot of carb and protein heavy delights. We took the opportunity to relax for a bit, reading and enjoying the atmosphere of the shop. Eventually we departed after a couple hours, making our way down to Harpers Ferry, WV.

Harpers Ferry

Killiansburg Cave CampsiteWe locked up our bikes on the Maryland side of Harper's Ferry and did a bit of exploring around town. Eventually we grabbed a burger from a restaurant there and made our way back to the trail. We decided to make our stop at Killiansburg Cave H/B -- the best decision of the entire trip. The camp site was absolutely beautiful. There is a site byKilliansburg Cave Campsite the trail, but there is a path that leads to an area down by the riverfront that is incredible. It is protected from the trail and had a nice beach like area on which we set-up our tent. Someone had lovingly created seats out of tree stumps and made a fire pit encircled by stones. We had some daylight left, so we took a swim in the still waters by our Dan Swimming at the Killiansburg Cave Campsitecampsite and cooled off in tranquil Potomac. Another delight we encountered here: someone left their firewood down by the camp so building a fire was quick and simple. After sitting out by the fire for a while we retired in our tent with the fly removed, staring at the stars through the canopy of trees.

Day 3 (9/20/2008): Killiansburg Cave H/B to White Rock H/B
57 Miles

Dan's Friend Danielle

After breaking camp at our beautiful site we continued on our way to Cumberland, and I started using Advil in a preventative manner. About ten miles into our day we came upon the detour on some country roads that constituted the only required break from the towpath. The initial hill was no joke, but once we got to the top it was more or less smooth sailing until we took the hill to go back down. Along the way we met up with Danielle, one of Dan's friends. She had been traveling the other direction and had come all the way from Pittsburgh. She was travelling with a friend but she had been leading her, so we didn't get a chance to say hi. After chatting by the side of the road for a while we parted ways and continued on the detour.

Dan and Me by a Dam by the C&O

Once we got back on the trail it was about another 15 miles to Williamsport, the next town along the trail. Along the way I had a flat tire that I was able to repair quickly with a spare tube I had in my panniers. There was a visitor's center in Williamsport and we got some maps and information and made our way into town for some lunch. The town itself was very run down and seemed dead, until we found a gem in the rough. We ended up going to a coffee shop called the Desert Rose Cafe that had a very kind owner who made us some tasty food and took care of us while we were there. If you take the trip there, I highly recommend stopping there, she was incredibly cyclist friendly and just all-around good people. We re-filled our water bottles and went across the street to a bike shop (River City Cycles), where I got another tire tube, just in case.

My Bike, Loaded upWe continued on toward our next stop, Hancock, MD. While taking a break at Dam 5, I picked up my bike by the saddle and the weight of the panniers caused the support rail to come out of its housing. Once again, I had a broken saddle. It was still rideable, but not terribly comfortable. About 15 miles out of Williamsport we took another detour, this time on the Western Maryland Rail Trail. The WMRT parallels the C&O and has the distinct advantage of being smoothly paved,The Western Maryland Rail Trail unlike its remarkably bumpy neighbor. On smooth pavement Dan and I flew like the wind and enjoyed the speed. Once in Hancock, we went to Weaver's Restaurant and had a bite to eat -- the food was alright and the pie was pretty good. After dinner we went to C&O Bicycle and picked up a brand new saddle for me. It is a very nice saddle that is serving me well to this day. From there we went to the nearby supermarket and picked up some oatmeal and nuts for breakfast the next day and continued on the trail.

It was starting to get dark, so we made a quick stop at White Rock H/B for the night -- a place that we would soon find out was infested with spiders of every variety and was otherwise uninteresting.

Day 4 (9/21/2008): White Rock H/B to Pigman's Ferry H/B
50 Miles

A Bridge across the Potomac

When we woke up we went out and started making breakfast. When I went to pick up my bib shorts, I realized a spider had woven a cocoon onto the lycra overnight. Also, after using the facilities, I noticed that inches from where I had been sitting, a brown recluse spider darted out from behind the seat. I'm very glad he didn't bite me. After cleaning up the gear a bit (and swiching to my other set of shorts) we set out for day four.

Bills Grocery in Little OrleansWe went about 10 miles until we reached Cacapon Junction where we stopped to view the scenery and met a person travelling from the other direction. We chatted with him for a while and found out that he was largely just trying to check out of the system for a while. He didn't know when he would stop, and didn't have much in the way of money, taking his guitar, a small sack of belongings, and a tent on his way down from up North. He thought he might try to make it down to Florida. After talking for a while we parted ways and continued on to Little Orleans, home of Bill's Place.Bills Grocery in Little Orleans

Bill's Place is famous along the trail as one of the places you have to go -- and it is the last hint of civilization until Paw Paw Tunnel. We grabbed a bite to eat, and I had copious quantities of a locally brewed birch beer from PA that was simply delicious. As is the custom, Dan and I wrote our names on a dollar bill to be posted on the ceiling there.

At the Paw Paw TunnelNext up we made our way to Paw Paw Tunnel. The tunnel is incredibly long, at nearly a mile. Unfortunately, my light failed on me, so I ended up making the walk in the dark. Once on the other side, we made our way to Paw Paw, WV where we stopped by a gas station to get some Gatorade and then to the Dollar General to get some food for the evening. Since we were so close to camp time, we decided to splurge and got some smoked sausage and jambalaya mix proper dinner at camp. We put up camp at Pigman's Ferry after passing up several campsites with lackluster scenery. It turns out that Pigman's Ferry was also lacking in scenery, but was the last one not directly adjacent to the rail lines, so we settled for spending the night there.

Pigman's Ferry CampsitePigman's Ferry Campsite

Dinner was delicious, and we attracted the attention of the cows that were pastured directly next to the camp site. The water was incredibly metalic in its taste (iron mostly) and while safe, was so filled with metal content that it was reddish in color, and stained our containers. The night was beautiful, and our location in an adjacent area to a pasture meant we had unobstructed views of the night sky.

Day 5 (8/22/2008): Pigman's Ferry H/B to Cumberland, MD
25 Miles

The End of the C&O Canal Trail

Our night's sleep was particularly peaceful -- after the 4 previous nights of camping, my body was finally getting used to sleeping in the tent. Today was to be our last day on the trail, and we quickly made our way down to Cumberland, excited to see success in our sights. We made it to Cumberland in good time and took our victory photos at the trail head.

Ed's Canal Pub in CumberlandWe went to a BBQ place called "When Pigs Fly" to grab a bite to eat for lunch and had some reasonably good BBQ to sate our hunger. The day was particularly hot, so we thought we would head over to the YMCA to take a swim. Unfortunately, that day it was closed for maintenance, so no swimming for us. So we headed back to town and went into a coffee shop to kill time until the evening when my beautiful wife was to pick us up.

Once night fell, we went to a great little bar called Ed's Canal Pub. They had a surprisingly good and inexpensive selection of beers. Dan and I drank quite a few of their Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard ales and generally enjoyed the feeling of success that came with the completion of our journey. Ann-Marie arrived not too long afterward and we made our way to Baltimore Street

Me, Featured in the Washington Post

I was featured in an article by David Montgomery in the Style section of today's Washington Post. The article "Cycling Back Around" can be found here. A friend of mine had send me David's contact information saying he was looking for someone who was a "very serious" bike commuter and I had come to mind. I met up with David one afternoon after work and we ended up talking for about an hour and a half, after which he rode with me on my evening commute up to around Gravelly Point. I enjoyed chatting and riding with him, and he seems like a nice guy who also likes to ride himself.

Obviously I'm biased, but I like the article. It is definitely great to see bike commuting getting some positive press these days -- I've included the passage he wrote about me below.

Excerpted From The Washington Post

Found and lost, lost and found. What Bicycle Washington affords this summer is redemption, for both rider and bike.

It all began for Ed Cabic with a Mt. Shasta Capella that he got about 17 years ago when he was 11, growing up in Columbia. It was a nice hybrid, large for the boy, and he rode it a lot. Then he got his driver's license.

Nothing beats driving, until Cabic realized he was arriving at work every morning mad and stressed.

A couple of years ago, he hauled out the dependable, upright Mt. Shasta. He started riding from Petworth to his job as a computer applications developer for a law firm at 10th and K.

The first day, he had to stop five times on the hills going home. Within two weeks, he didn't have to stop anymore.

"I went from hating my commute to having the commute be what I was looking forward to all day," says Cabic, now 28. "I come into work happy."

So happy that: "I found my commute was not long enough."

So he moved to Alexandria. That commute is about 15 miles round trip, 30 minutes each way. He got studded tires to ride in the snow. He does 2,500 to 3,000 miles a year.

While shedding 40 pounds, he calculated he also was saving about $4,500 a year -- before the recent jump in gas prices.

He has invested about $1,500 of the savings to upgrade the Mt. Shasta. Old bike, new accessories: He's got two panniers -- one doubles as a backpack, the other holds a full-size grocery bag -- plus a utility bag on the rack. The panniers carry his work shoes and a change of clothes. He rides in faded spandex and showers at the office.

He packs a lunch, a breakdown kit, lights, a CO2 tire inflator, latex gloves in case he has to handle his chain. On the handlebars is a bell, an air horn for really obnoxious or dangerous motorists, and a GPS device that he mainly uses as a speedometer.

He kept the Mt. Shasta's friction-shifters because he considers the old system more durable and lower-maintenance than the new index gears.

He wears a helmet, and also goggles, to which he has attached a tiny rearview mirror: "Probably the best $15 I ever spent."

"I love D.C.," he says. "A big part of being in love with the city is biking it."

His favorite part of the morning commute is cresting the hill on the Mount Vernon Trail bike path near Reagan National Airport. That's the moment the monuments suddenly come into view.

Now it's the end of the day. Heading home, he cruises the Mall on Madison Drive. As he pedals over the 14th Street bridge, planes swoop toward National while boats ply the Potomac River. "You get quite the vista," he says. "At night you can see the Nationals' stadium."

He turns onto the Mount Vernon Trail and follows the river toward Alexandria. Bikers are coming and going. They have left the cars behind, and it is quiet along the river.

Posted August 2, 2008

Reston Tour de Cure 2008

Me with Teammates at the Reston Tour de Cure 2008It has been a while since I have written here, and many things have happened in the interim.

On Sunday, June 8, I successfully completed the 100 km metric century of the 2008 Reston Tour de Cure. It was a particularly hot day, with the heat index reaching around 104°F. The path of the trail mostly followed the Washington and Old Dominion trail, with a few detours up some fairly significant climbs.

Along the way I had two flat tires, including one flat which had a nail go into my tire backwards! Thankfully, everything was able to be fixed and I completed the ride well within the prescribed time.

The ride would have been a lot easier if it had not been so oppressively hot. The heat definitely forced a harder effort than I was expecting. Aside from the two flats, the ride was a lot of fun. I rode with our team for the first two legs of the ride, and catching a draft in a paceline was definitely exhilirating. However, after almost 20 miles of the 20-25mph pace, the heat made me drop off the back and take a slower pace for the rest of the ride. The scenery on that section of the Washington and Old Dominion trail was quite beautiful and I'm sure I'll make my way back up there for more riding in the future.

The ride was definitely a fun time, and between firm, friends, and family I was able to raise $255 for the American Diabetes Association. Hopefully next time will be a bit cooler.

Hitting the 1,000 Mile Mark for 2008 on Bike to Work Day

Me after reaching The first pitstop on the Seagull Century

While riding home from Bike To Work Day 2008 (May 16, 2008) I logged mile 1,000 for the year. For some perspective, I hit the landmark 3 days shy of a month earlier than I did last year. I'm definitely pleased with reaching the milestone earlier this year.

Bike to Work Day was a lot of fun, as usual. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to take any photos, but many members of the DC Government showed up (not the Mayor this year though) and the free food, t-shirts, and water bottles are always welcome. The turnout wasn't nearly as large as last year due to the rain, but a solid core was out for the event.

Life has been busy of late, so I haven't had much of a chance to get in extra miles, but that is going to be one of my goals -- especially since I'm "in training" for the Tour de Cure coming up in just a few weeks. I've heard some rumors that the route is a bit hilly, so I'll be trying to log a few more miles beyond my normal commute in preparation.