Wheeling, West Virginia to Frostburg, Maryland
Today: 153.7 miles
Trip: 2856 miles
Avg Speed: 12.8 mph
Pedal Time: 11 hours 59 minutes
Where to begin. I didn’t sleep very well last night. Wake up to go pee. Wake up to get water. Wake up to go pee again. Repeat.
I had stayed in a Super 8 motel last night. I walked out the door about 7:50 in the morning and there were some West Virginians on the front stoop… Drinking. They had already polished off 4-5 beers by the time I started chatting with them. Really fellas? Did you start drinking at 7 am?
After a chat I got on the road. I had to rise only 8 miles in West Virginia before I got to Pennsylvania. I was in the northern skinny sliver part of West Virginia. Interestingly, it was a fairly flat ride, those 8 miles. So much for mountain mama, at least in that little part of the state.
The next 42 miles in Pennsylvania can only be described as my personal hell on earth. Deep, steep, long, mountainous hills. These 42 miles was a ride of extremes. I was either going 6 mph up the hill or 30+ mph down the hill. I hated every second of those 42 miles.
In any case, I got to the town of West Newton where I picked the Great Allegheny Passage trail. This trail connects Pittsburgh and D.C. and while I was going uphill all day on it, the elevation change is unnoticeable. The trail was constructed on an old rail road track so the maximum grade was 1.5%.
The trail is beautiful, and at some point is like to do it again. It winds along a scenic river, through a state park, over bridges, and even through tunnels. There are small towns scattered every 15-20 miles with camping, restaurants, bars, and outdoor things to do.
As I was saying, I was going uphill most of the day. From my starting point, the trail rose 90 miles to the “eastern continental divide” and then falls 10 miles to Frostburg, and then another 15 miles to Cumberland. 100 miles on a bike trail would be a big day, but I already had the 50 hilly miles under my legs. I felt it the whole way…
With about two hours to go, it finally got dark. Luckily, my head lamp is pretty powerful and I was still able to get a little bubble of light to travel in. It’s eerie biking at night in the woods. Shadows in the dark play tricks with your mind. Is that an animal? Or a bush in the shape of an animal. Plus, the eyes of every animal glow in the dark. Scary.
After the divide, I had to pass through a 1000 foot long tunnel. Darker than death in there. Little bubble of light in front of me, darkness behind.
I finally came to the welcome to Maryland sign. I was going to stop to take a picture but out of the darkness came a shirtless hillbilly with a long beard. Scared the crap out of me. He had no flash light, no walking stick, no shirt. Just walking in the dark. Where to… I have no idea. Nothing for miles around. Needless to say, I didn’t linger for a picture.
Anyway, by the time I got to Frostburg, it was nearly 11 pm and I had been riding for about 12 hours. Katie and Little Bruce Pike picked me up there and my long journey home came to an end.
It’s only just started to hit me that I rode my bicycle from one end of this country to the other.
1) if you’re thinking of doing this, I would recommend going with a partner. Somebody to share the experiences with, good and bad.
2) if you’re thinking of doing this, the best investment you can make is a long, hand held air pump. Great for fending off dogs.
3) my body aches all over right now. My left calf is starting to feel better, but now the right one is acting up. My right ankle is still bothering me. My knees are awful. I have lost feeling in my palms and developed several blisters and callous (spelling?) on them. Both elbows are stiff and sore from holding myself up on the handle bars. My rear end, i wont even go there. The list goes on…
4) I think the biggest lesson that got hammered home during this trip is I have to take the bad with the good. There are going to be conditions that present themselves that make life difficult. But you have to accept that. No matter how much you wish the temperature was cooler, the road was flatter, or the wind less breezy, it’s not going to change and you have to keep going. You have to deal with it and persevere.
5) I’ve learned never to say never in life. However, if I ever do something like this again it’s going to be a very very VERY long time away. And it won’t be alone for sure.
6) if I do do something like this again, I’m going to do shorter days. 100+ miles a day puts too much wear and tear on the body.
When I started, people asked how long they thought it would take me. My standard reply was “Hoping for 5 weeks, shooting for 6, probably going to be 7.”
It took me 5 weeks to the day.
A big thanks to everybody who’s followed me and checked in on me. Especially my fiancé Katie, my family, my cousins, my three best friends, and the others I met along the way like the Adams. Your words of encouragement really helped in the darkest of days.
Here are pictures from my finish, a bit blurry unfortunately…
I had a dream the other night that I had decided to swim across the Atlantic Ocean. I have an unnatural fear of sharks so I know it’ll never happen. Unless…