I took the bike out again today. I went up the Harpers Ferry and crossed the Potomac River to the C&O Canal on the other side. Where the bridge crosses and connects with the Towpath, it's roughly mile-marker 60.2. (The Towpath has mileposts it's whole was, from Washington, DC (Mile 0) to Cumberland, MD (Mile 164).
I started south from here, my goal being a ride down to milepost 50 and back.
The first five miles, down to Brunswick, MD, was pretty easy, and the towpath had quite a few other bicyclists and pedestrians on it, even on a week-day. But once past Brunswick, it got pretty secluded and other than all the turtles in the canal and one massive Blue Heron, I had it all pretty much to myself.
This is one of the locks and lockhouses along the canal. This one is Lock 29, at milepost 50.8. Each lock had a tender who lived on-site and was paid about $600 a year by the canal company in addition to being allowed to stay in the house and garden. The last tender lived here with his family from 1917 until the canal was shut down in 1924, and then they stayed on and just kept living in the house until he died in 1962. Seven years' work for a free house forever? Not a bad deal if you ask me.
And here's the Potomac River, just across from the lock house. That's Virginia on the other side.
Down at Milepost 50, I wound up next to a railroad tunnel, and suddenly I realized where I was, historically. This was the spot known as "Point of Rocks" where the C&O Canal Company and the competing B&O Railroad both tried to grab the narrow pass between the mountain and the Potomac River. The dispute wound up in court and the railroad lost. The canal company got to build it's ditch and towpath and the railroad had to cut a tunnel through the mountain to run it's tracks. This tunnel was originally completed in 1867 and rebuilt in 1902. Later, when the canal failed, the railroad filled the ditch and ran a second line along it.The tunnel is still there, though, and still in use. Naturally I had to walk through it, safe to do since it's original twin track has been replaced by one, leaving plenty of room to avoid any train that manages to somehow sneak up on you while exploring this relatively short passage.
After checking this out, I turned around and headed back, stopping in Brunswick for lunch. This time, I found El Sloppy Taco, which offers a unique blend of South American food with a Memphis touch. The food was great, even if I was the only one in there. I thought it much healthier than the greasy diner across the street where everything is fried and everyone--customers and staff alike--is fat. I'm not riding this far to put on more calories than I'm burning off.
Finally, I headed back up to Harpers Ferry. This last five miles was probably the hardest, if only because it seemed like the "memory cushion" on my bike seat forgot something. I guess that's another muscle group that I've got to build back up.
Still, it was a great ride and it's a shame that none of you could be there with me.
Oh wait--you can. I filmed a bit of the ride. Just pretend you're on a bike.
Eventually I made it back to the bridge, and even went beyond it, riding up to mile marker 61 and back, just so I could lay claim to having made a 22 mile ride. I mean, why call it quits with just 20.4 miles, right? I was doing 20 mile rides last year so I have to do better this year, even if just a bit.
Next ride is going back up river from Shepherdstown. One of these days, I'm doing the whole thing.