2013 Ride

Days 11, 12, 13 & 14: Snow, Strangled Earth, Tunnels & Turbines in Coal Country

Ohiopyle Falls


Day 11: Spent a second day in Ohiopyle, PA making preparations for DC and waiting out the cold, wet weather. The loose Native translation for Ohiopyle is “white, frothy water,” inspired by Ohiopyle Falls (pictured here), a popular run for skilled local kayakers. I’d love to get back here someday and paddle the Loop.


Day 12: Woke up to a light snow this morning, which I’ll take over cold rain any day, as long as it doesn’t accumulate. The trike’s shell does a great job of holding in the heat you generate while pedaling, meaning even on cold days you only get chilled when you stop. The flip side, of course, is you sometimes feel like you’re pedaling in a sauna when it’s hot out.

After sending out my “½ way there” update to friends and colleagues, packed up my gear, carb-load with breakfast in town and hit the path. Here’s a short video I took of what it was like pedaling the trike over the leaf-strewn Great Allegheny Passage en route to the White House: “Ride Through the Woods.” Encountered almost more rifle-toting hunters on the trail today than cyclists.

Strangled TreePedaling down the trail, I witnessed something that literally stopped me in my tracks. This image speaks volumes to me. Not surprisingly, the tree this lock and chain strangled is dead. To me, it powerfully symbolizes how humans are treating Mother Earth, who provides us with everything we need to live rich, happy lives. Instead of responding with gratitude, we desecrate her, like the careless person who did this. I’m not assuming this was done with ill intent, but the end result is the same. If we don’t wake up and start treating the planet with respect, I believe Earth will simply shake us off, like so much dust, before she allows herself to expire, like this tree.


But pedaling through Pennsylvania coal country and seeing wind farms left and right gives one cause for hope. I really liked this image of the trike emerging from a tunnel to the view of a wind turbine towering on the horizon, with the tunnel representing the fossil fuel paradigm we’re living though today and the wind turbine representing the green energy future awaiting us. It’s a great metaphor for where we can go quickly, if we so choose.


Here’s a video I took of two wind turbines I encountered on a ridge line near Meyersdale, PA, while reflecting on the urgent need for a green energy “moon shot” for America: “Wind Power in Coal Country.”

Here’s a related video sharing my “Thought of the Day.”

Eastern Continental Divide 2Excited to reach the Eastern Continental Divide (pictured here), because it’s all down hill to DC from here. Was a treat racing down the eastern side of the divide and not having to pedal every second to make progress. My sore knees thanked me. But I remember well from 2010 how much serious effort still awaits me on the C&O Canal Trail, where many sections of the track are too narrow to accommodate my front two wheels. This time, there’s no electric-assist motor to help. It’s all on me and my two legs.


Here’s another video I took of a wind farm harnessing Nature’s power on a Pennsylvania hillside bathed in sunlight near dusk: “Wind Farm at Twilight.”

Here’s what it’s like pedaling 3294′ feet under a mountain: “Rocket Triking Through Big Savage Tunnel.”

Mason Dixon Line



Saying goodbye to Pennsylvania and hello to Maryland at the Mason-Dixon Line (pictured here).


Here’s a video I took traversing the 957′ long Borden Tunnel: “Tunneling in the Dark.”

Frosted Gear in FrostburgDecided mid-day to try for Frostburg, MD and arrived just as it was starting to get dark. Frostburg is appropriately named: moments after rolling into the Travel Inn & Campground, everything in the trike soaked with sweat from the day’s riding was already covered in frost. Here’s what it looked like in the morning. The long, steep wooden ramp down to the showerhouse was also covered with frost, making for a treacherous descent in bike cleats (surprisingly more hazardous than anything I’ve encountered on the road the entire journey). I later padded back up the ramp in socks.

Set up camp in the dark and scarfed down a freeze dried dinner before retiring to my tent to download photos and videos from the day. Logged 60 miles today, which wasn’t bad, given the late start leaving Ohiopyle.

Day 13: After a hearty breakfast at the Inn, headed down the trail towards Cumberland. Being a major tourist destination, encountered lots of friendly cyclists on the path today. Thanks for the coffee cash, Marna!

Cumberland Bone Cave & Rocket Trike


Passed the Cumberland Bone Cave (pictured here), which was discovered with bones from 28 species now extinct, including the Saber-Toothed Cat, mastodons and even a crocodile.



Beaver Lodge & Rocket Trike 2


A little further down the trail, encountered several beaver lodges. The one pictured here is across the C&O Canal, up and to the right of the nose cone of the trike. If you look closely, you’ll see a well-used beaver path leading up the hill to a food source: a tree with bark eaten away at the base.


With 34 more miles behind me, reached the Potomac Forks campground (one of many free trailside campgrounds along the C&O Canal Trail) at dusk and spend the early evening hours sitting in the dark at my picnic table catching up on my blog. I was the only one there. The night was pitch black, and the only company the occasional insect that came to inspect the lit up screen of my laptop. Eerily quiet, except for the occasional passing train.

Day 14: Today was the toughest physical challenge yet of the journey. For much of the C&O Canal Trail, the path is too narrow to easily accommodate the trike, so lots of extra work is required. When I came through in 2010, I had the electric assist motor to help push me through. This time, my legs are providing 100% of the power. I set out on this trek desiring a physical challenge, and I’m getting it. Here you work for every mile.

Potomac Forks CampsiteThis morning, while breaking camp (pictured here: note the historic Lock House in the background), I encountered one Daddy Long Leg after another. Some were slowly walking across the tent, maybe attracted by the residual warmth. I found another standing on the picnic table, seemingly trying to warm itself with the morning sun. I gingerly moved them to the grass so as not to step on them as I packed up. I’ve always been a big fan of Daddy Long Legs. I really need to learn more about them.


Bill's PlaceBy mid afternoon, with my rocket fuel running low and desperate for food, I remembered a bar right off the trail in Little Orleans called Bill’s Place (pictured here), the only place to resupply for miles. Instant oatmeal and energy bars only get you so far. I had stopped here during my 2010 ride and had signed a dollar bill “Renewable Rider” that is now affixed to the ceiling along with the thousands of others, but was too tired today to look for it. Ordered some lunch and washed it down with two frosty cold PBRs. Just the ticket.


A few more miles down the trail was the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail, which parallels the C&O for 20+ miles. My knees were grateful for the reprieve and I rocketed to my evening destination of Hancock, MD, 40 miles closer to the White House. The trail took me right to C&O Bicycle, a bike shop/hostel complete with warm showers and screened-in bunks for just $10/night. Got some dinner in town, then spent the night on the screened-in porch updating the last four days worth of blogs. A chilly night, for sure, but hard to beat the price.

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