The C&O canal ended here in Cumberland, and the Great Allegheny Passage (“GAP”) starts here with mile 0.
Today has been my favorite day of the ride so far. I have really enjoyed riding the Great Allegheny Passage. It has a great riding surface, spectacular views, and lots of neat things to experience.
I slept so well last night, thanks in large part to renting a room at the Fairfield Inn in Cumberland. Stephanie had gotten this arranged for me and it was such a treat to have a real bed, comfortable temperatures, properly laundered clothes, and a hot shower of my own!
I also have to backtrack to the evening when we arrived in Cumberland for one neat detail: the local bike shop on the trail in Cumberland. Not only was it a nice shop with a great selection of high-quality parts and bikes, but they also sell home-brew beer making equipment! Talk about two things that go great together. We took the opportunity to sample some of their delicious brew. I highly recommend checking out their fine establishment.
Back on the first day of the ride, I met a guy named Rich, a retired iron worker from Pittsburgh. He and I chose to ride together today for the climb up to the continental divide. He was great company for the ride. He had recently done a training ride up this section, so he was able to explain what to anticipate.
On the elevation map, it looks pretty intimidating: you climb for nearly 25 straight miles, rising about 2,000 feet. Add onto that, the overall distance of 62 miles, and I will admit that I was rather nervous about what I was in for. My fears were not really warranted. We climbed to the summit pretty easily, just dropping a couple of gears and taking a slower and steady pace. Rich was excellent company and before I knew it, we were overlooking some gorgeous views from near the top.
We passed Frostburg and moved on to mile 20. At mile 20, the Mason-Dixon line crosses the path and we moved from Maryland into Pennsylvania. Check off another state of places I’ve biked!
In just the last few weeks, the GAP people found out that their old Mason Dixon line was on the wrong place for many years, so they have put down a new marker in the correct spot. I took the requisite picture of standing in two states at once.
After the state line, we pedaled on to the Big Savage Tunnel. It was awesome! The tunnel is over 3,200 feet long and very cold inside. It was recently renovated and is well lit and surfaced.
Somewhere around here, Jim caught up with us and we reached the Eastern Continental Divide. What an amazing feeling! “I’m on top of the world, looking down on creation…”. Very neat murals mark this site at a very short tunnel on the divide.
I took the opportunity for a short sprint to stretch my legs, after feeling reinvigorated by the accomplishment of the climb. It was fun to zoom off for a couple of miles.
There were windmills up there, too. Note to self: when you see a windfarm directly facing you, it probably isn’t a good sign for favorable headwinds.
We rode over the Keystone Viaduct today. A 909′ long structure that is very high up and passes over the countryside and local highway. It was really fun!
Moving on, we pedaled to Myersdale and ate lunch at the train station. The caterers, once again, provided great food to fuel us up.
Back on the trail, dark clouds moved in, and brought a heavy downpour and some sparse lightning for the last 15-ish miles. I got soaked and covered with grit from the trail.
By the time I arrived at the Turkeyfoot School in Confluence, the rain had stopped, but I was soaked.
All-in-all, this was a spectacular biking day.
– Dc. Matt