I had ridden about 25 miles from Bruceton Mills in West Virginia to a point on Pig’s Ear Road in Maryland.
The hills / mountains / heat to this point had just beaten me like a rented mule.
It had taken me nearly 4 hours to ride that far. I didn’t know what was ahead, but I assumed more of the same: more hills. More wind. No, ahem, incentive to just keep moving forward.
At the rate I was moving, it was going to be another 2 to 3 hours to reach my original destination in Maryland and get back to that spot on Pig’s Ear Road. Then another four+ hours to ride back to Bruceton Mills. At that point I was fighting the clock. I for damned sure didn’t want to be on WV-26 after the sun went down. Little poorly maintained two lane road, highly trafficked with relatively high speed vehicles trying to get on and off of Interstate 68.
Plus, it was a case of the “devil that you know.” I knew what I had facing me on the way back. At least three monster hills I was going to have to climb. I knew I had the strength to do those, but not a lot more.
I kept trying to rationalize what was, in essence, my giving up. I was already in Maryland. If I turned back, I’d only have 7 miles in the state. I needed 13 more to mark it “done.”
My body was having none of it. Which really pissed me off at myself. And frankly, it scared me, too. In three months, what if my body decides it’s had enough while I’m in the middle of the desert with 20 miles to go? I won’t have an option to just turn around. If I can’t handle the foot hills of the Appalachians when it’s only 80 degrees outside, how on earth am I going to be able to handle the Rocky Mountains in 110 degrees?
With my tail between my legs, and unbelievably pissed off at myself that I wasn’t strong enough to complete what I’d set out to do, I turned around and headed back.
Made it back to the car around 5:30. (Eight hours to ride 50 miles. That’s just pathetic.) That still left about 3 hours of daylight. I wasn’t that far away from Maryland. I decided to just drive into the state and find a place to finish up the ride. Give me a chance to sit down for a little bit, stop my legs from cramping up, charge the phone a little. (It was on the verge of dying.)
If half my brain was trying to cheat by scouting out a “flatter” area — one with less hills — my eyes were letting me know that wasn’t going to happen. Western Maryland is still in the Appalachian foot hills.
I didn’t want to drive all the way to Cumberland. (Mainly because I’d have to drive it back.) There was a little town before Cumberland called Frostburg. If I hadn’t found any place to stop, I’d pull off in Frostburg and finish those 13 miles.
On the way, I got to thinking about a ride I wanted to do on the Great Allegheny Passage. Years ago on the way to Baltimore I saw a sign about the GAP along I-68. I’d pulled off the interstate at the appropriate exit and explored the little town where the trail head was located. I knew the trail had a crushed limestone surface and my road bike couldn’t handle that.
Well, friends and neighbors, guess where the trail head of the GAP is?
And guess who now owns a bicycle that can handle a crushed limestone trail?
I parked the car at the train depot, unloaded the bike, and headed up the trail.
I had purposely driven far enough into Maryland to keep from repeating an issue that happened back in February 2015 when I was trying to claim Idaho. The bike trail I discovered in Idaho was right across the border from Washington. I’m not sure how much — if any — of the ride I did to claim Idaho was actually ridden in Washington. So Idaho carries an asterisk next to the record. Some day I’ll have to get back there to make the claim more solid.
But about 5.5 miles from the start of the trail in Frostburg I ran across this:
And just so I got an extra kick in the nads:
It took some riding in circles a little bit to grab the extra mile I lost by hitting the PA border. (On the Maryland side, of course.) But I did get my 20 in Maryland and I got to ride on the GAP. Still pissed my body let me down initially. Just need more training.
It’s time to update my “Got It” map
Next week I’m headed up north to grab those three biggies: WI, MN, and ND. The bike will be fully “tricked out,” complete with everything I’m going to be toting on The Ride. (Clothes, tools, panniers. A dress rehearsal, if you will.) Obviously there’s a serious lack of mountains and deserts up there, but I’ve got make sure I can ride the bike fully loaded first. Then I can consider, “Well, can you ride it over a mountain?” One step at a time.