Today was another very hot day: high 90s and heat index over 100. I rode with Jim again today and we got out very early to beat the heat.
Last night was super hot and difficult to sleep, but I did eek out a few good hours of sleep.
We wound past Bill’s place and got right to the ride on the towpath, bidding a nice farewell to Little Orleans.
The first hi light of today’s ride was going through the Paw Paw tunnel. You can see a picture of me standing atop the entrance.
This amazing structure was tunneled through a mountain to allow the canal to go through and save several miles of going around. It was estimated that it was going to take 2 years to tunnel it out, but it ended up taking 14 years to create this amazing tunnel! The tunnel is only wide enough for one barge and mule, so if two barges needed to pass, they had to be agreeable to take turns … which wasn’t always the case and could jam up boat traffic.
The tunnel is over 3,100 feet long (!) and lined with a brick archway. I’d guess millions of bricks are in that structure. We had to dismount and walk our bikes along the mule path inside the tunnel, navigating by headlight. Without a light source, it is pitch black. One other nice part: it was nice and cool inside – a great break from the heat!
Most of the rest of the ride was beautiful and uneventful. Many miles of countryside and spectacular views. The shady lengths were nice, and the sun was very toasty.
The second hi light was that we arrived in Cumberland MD at lunchtime. This means we are more than half way done at 185 miles! It also means that we say goodbye to the C&O canal and begin riding on the Great Allegheny Passage: a rail-trail that runs all the way into Pittsburgh. I’m told that the surface is much better than the C&O, so I am looking forward to that.
One more great surprise was awaiting me in Cumberland. After the last two days of miserable heat for camping, I asked Stephanie to try to get me a hotel room. She delivered! A clean, air-conditioned, great room at the Fairfield Inn greeted me and really lifted my spirits! Thanks Steph!!!! I washed my clothes and myself, and loaded up on food. I’m SOOO looking forward to a real bed tonight.
Tomorrow is the most difficult day: 62 miles, including a climb up to the Eastern Continental Divide at around 2,000 feet of climb.
My back is still a bit sore, but not terrible. Some Alleve and rest tonight should help.
– Dc. Matt