USA 2019 Day 4 from Hancock to Cumberland

Last night at the Hancock Motel, I slept pretty well. So good that I got up quite late. The breakfast in the motel was, as usual, a disaster, I was content with orange juice. Today will be physically quite exhausting, because I will follow the whole 100 kilometers first the Western Maryland Rail Trail and then again the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail, of it nearly 80 kilometers on unpaved gravel roads. Hands, arms, shoulders, and bottom will be extremely demanding.

Very late at 10:45 am I set off on my arduous way. On the way to the trail, which is only about one kilometer away from the motel, I stop at a gas station as usual and stock up for the day with drinks and sandwiches. Then I continue exactly where I left the Maryland Rail Trail yesterday. This trail is very well developed. All asphalted and also the former railway bridges were prepared all for cyclists.

One notices that today is Saturday. There is a lot more going on on the trail than yesterday. I find particularly praiseworthy that everyone greets everyone here. It is a very relaxed rolling along. At all these trails there are information boards with rules at the connection points:

  • Travel only at speeds which are safe and approbiate to trail conditions and usage
  • Travel in the right lane
    • Move left to pass
    • Give approbiate warning to trail users ahead
    • Move off the trail when you come to a stop
  • Pedestrians have the right-of-way
  • Obey helmet laws
  • Stop at all road / street crossings
  • Pets must be on leash and controlled at all times
  • Alcoholic beverages prohibited
  • Trail closes at sunset
  • No bicycle races or competitive speed training
  • Please respect private property. Be a courteous user of public lands

After a good hour, I take the first break, because I just pass a very suitable place with table and benches. Due to the lack of a nutritious breakfast, this fits in very well with my time and I eat and drink something. Three other couples of different ages stop here one after the other and we get into a conversation. I get some good tips about the trail because three months ago a new section of the Western Maryland Rail Trail was opened. It is now 2-3 miles longer and follows it further and does not change to the gravel Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail as recommended by the not yet updated map. This is great because it is easier on asphalt.

After more than 20 kilometers the end of the former railway line was reached and I changed to the gravel trail. But after only four kilometers I saw the asphalted trail again and changed directly on it. So there is only a small part missing in the middle. Super, here it rolls much better again and my mood is top. But after two and a half kilometers I’m standing in front of a fence. The former railway bridge behind it is dilapidated and not yet renovated. A passage is not possible. So I have to turn around and change back to the gravel road. At least I don’t have to go all the way back, only about half. However, the Potomac makes a loop here and the Western Maryland Rail Trail would have shortened it, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail extends completely. Too bad.

So further on the gravel. The joints are happy. After all, there are campgrounds every few kilometers with permission to camp there in nature. Including mobile toilets and drinking water points. Of course, this is also good for us cyclists. Like yesterday I pass a lot of locks. Meanwhile, I have passed dozens. Always with information boards to history.

After almost exactly half of my stage today, about 50 kilometers, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail makes a bend away from the river and follows the canal, which shortens some narrow loops of the Upper Potomac River at this point. This section is a famous sight because a narrow gorge was driven into the rock for the canal. The canal still carries water, and a wooden footbridge was built on one side to allow cyclists to pass through this narrow section. On this one, it goes through the gorge.

The shortcut is almost two kilometers long and saves almost ten kilometers of river bends. With one problem. Half of this shortcut led through a mountain. In 1836 the construction of a tunnel for the canal through the mountain began. In 1850 the one-kilometer long Paw-Paw-Tunnel was opened and although it is no longer in use today, it is available to hikers and cyclists as an official part of the trail.

As the temperature has meanwhile risen to 33 °C and cool air is blowing out of the tunnel, I take a little break before the entrance. Besides, the path next to the canal is very narrow and in front of me a group of pedestrians walked into the tunnel. I want to give them a good head start so that I don’t have to pass them in the middle of the unlit tunnel on the narrow path. Then I drive off, too. It’s pretty cold in the tunnel. I think it’s great and enjoy it. The ground is extremely uneven and I have to drive very slowly and take good care. Fortunately, I have an extremely good and incredibly bright lamp on my bike, which illuminates everything in front of me as bright as day. Even though I underestimated the length of the tunnel and it seems to stretch longer and longer, I enjoy the passage. At the other end is a small resting place but in the sun. But again with information boards, which I read through and learn the history of the tunnel and the breakthrough through the mountain.

Then it goes again along the river. Another 46 kilometers of gravel road. On the left side the river, on the right side the remains of the canal. Then I reach Cumberland. The sun is already low and I am looking forward to my hotel, although I read in the reviews that it is directly at the station and it is very loud in the rooms. The trains in America also horn at night. Nevertheless, I decided to go for the Ramada by Wyndham because it is clean, cheap and well located.

I get a room on the top floor. On the side facing away from the station with a view of the city. One must be lucky! Then I was a little bit around the hotel, had dinner at Wendy’s and then had a first-class milkshake as dessert at the Queen City Creamery. So I let the day slowly come to an end.

🕑 Ø
6:11 102 km 16.4 km/h 180 m 130 m

Yours
Marcus

Written on August 17, 2019