Beginning at road’s end two days ago–Annapolis, MD that is–I am officially on the road again. Better yet, for the moment, I am on the dusty trail. The C & O Canal Towpath is part of the longest continuous cycling facility in all the land. Paired with the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail, nearly 350 miles of canal/rail trail connect DC to Pittsburgh. On top of that, the surface is manicured dirt, while campsites are provided free of charge with drinking water and toilets ever 3-10 miles. If you ride bikes and like camping, this is your Disneyland. This time of year trees overhang most of the trail offering respite from the that blazing fireball above which has turned this part of the country into a veritable greenhouse (90+ degrees and 90% humidity), while grasses lean into the towpath, grazing knees and ankles all the day. The heat contrasts dramatically with the freezing temperatures encountered on the trail only two months ago, with a chilly 18 deg night near Ohiopyle, PA. I head north soon, to visit family in upstate NY, before seeking two other long distance cycling facilities: the mythical Trans-Canada Trail which acts to coordinate many smaller local trails and routes to eventually create a mixed-terrain cross-country route, and the very real Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) which runs from Banff, Alberta down to the Mexican border on a route that crosses the Continental Divide nearly 30 times at average elevation of 6000ft. Is it not too much to ask that someday our cities will be connected by these woodland superhighways and sub/urban thoroughfares? People got legs and people got bikes. And people got places to go.
Rail trails are a natural solution.
Barely two months in town and I already have reason to leave. Each of the last three years, I have worked less and biked more. What do I do?…I ride to get places and rarely do I ride for no reason. I work some, so that I can ride the rest of the year. Sometimes traveling seems meaningless, but then so does life; perhaps it’s not the traveling that is meaningless. Bill Bowerman used to prepare his young runners with the words, “…if you can find meaning, in the kind of running you have to do to stay on this team, chances are you will be able to find meaning in another absurd past-time: life.” I think I’m on to that.
To borrow a few words from a great friend, “I am riding the world’s greatest bicycle”. My 1985 Schwinn High Sierra has evolved into a game-changing new bicycle where big tires meet tarmac, and drop bars make friends of dirt. If “performance hybrid” isn’t enough an anomaly, then Ergon grips (“performance comfort”) on drop bars and a vintage Y-shaped ATB stem should help to raise the bar. Steel chainrings, dynamo lighting, and no full sized touring racks in sight (just a VO Pass Hunter rack as a Carradice bag support) round out my “hybrid” bike. Even when the road gets rough, the bike remains quiet and safe, with no chance of loosening pannier hooks or broken racks. She is overbuilt and underpacked, and a good bike is a good friend. Photos coming soon.