Monday, November 1, 2010

New England bike trip October 29-31, 1985 -- to Washington DC!

Tuesday October 29, 1985.

The day before I found out that bikes were allowed on Lancaster County buses. This was an idea ahead of its time, for sure. I was happy about it because I was facing a 100-mile day to the next hostel, in Gettysburg, PA. Yet I also wanted time to check out the Lancaster farmer's market, which was open on Tuesdays. Bikes-on-buses solved the problem.

I was up early and headed for New Holland to catch the bus. It was as cold as any time during the trip, but beautiful. Witness the photo of the farm and full moon (and no power lines). At the bus stop I met a construction worker on his way to his job site. Nice conversation ensued and he helped me lift the bike onto the bus.

Early morning near New Holland, PA. October 29, 1985.

The farmer's market was terrific. The only disappointment was that I could only carry a limited amount. I bought about all I could carry (stomach + panniers). According to my journal I bought: an orange (10¢), 1.5 lb of purple Concord grapes (50¢), a block of six sticky buns (45¢), a loaf of homemade hearth bread (50¢), and a dozen homemade donuts (95¢). Outside I fueled up for the day's ride by polishing off all the sticky buns and grapes and a few donuts. The donuts were the best things: delicious, sometimes jelly-filled, and a little chewier than most mass-produced donuts.

Farmer's market haul, Lancaster, PA. October 29, 1985.

After this feast my bike and I boarded one more bus, which took us 11 more miles west, to Columbia, PA. I disembarked there and picked up some mail at the p.o. Then rode across the Susquehanna River, much much wider here than when I'd seen it upstream a few days prior.

Soon I caught up to another guy riding a loaded bike! Can't remember his name and never wrote it down! He lived in NYC and was riding from there to Baltimore. Our routes overlapped for about 20 miles, so we rode together and swapped stories. We turned south at Hallam, PA and rode together to the town of Red Lion. Along the way, he took the one and only picture from the trip with me aboard the loaded bike. Beautiful sun and beautiful farmland were again the dominant pleasures of the day. Another spoke broke and was fixed, but it was easily forgotten.

On the road south of Hallam, PA. October 29, 1985.

The guy from NYC at Red Lion, PA. October 29, 1985.

Mr. NYC headed south from there, while I zigzagged westward through Glen Rock and Glenville to the bigger town of Hanover. I took a rest break there and met a local man who told me about the Civil War history of the area. He took my picture with a downtown statue. Then I was off again for Gettysburg, 14 miles further west. I got there an hour before sunset. The day's total was 60-65 miles instead of 100, thanks to the buses.

Near Glen Rock, PA. October 29, 1985.

In Hanover, PA. October 29, 1985.

The hostel was right downtown in an old hotel building. I checked in and unloaded the bike. I then rode a much-lighter bike a couple miles over to the Gettysburg battlefield park. It was cold, quiet and deserted, and appropriately solemn in the fading light. A very impressive place that I'd like to see again. I captured some time-exposure silhouette shots with the camera before heading back to town.

Gettysburg Hostel. October 29, 1985.

Gettysburg battlefield at sunset, October 29, 1985.

Wednesday October 30, 1985.

The Maryland line was not far away. I got there before I knew it, pedaling along under thin gray clouds. Pennsylvania, which I'd been unsure of and dreading 8 days before, turned out delightful all the way across. Sunny weather, fab experiences, great riding. Glad I didn't punt and hop a bus!

I passed through Emmitsburg and Thurmont on the main road before turning west onto smaller routes. I went west on Rocky Ridge Road, a.k.a. state route 77. I climbed about a thousand feet total, mostly within the Catoctin Mountain State Park. I had no idea at the time that I'd passed about 1 mile south of Camp David, where just a few years before President Jimmy Carter had finessed the Camp David Accords agreement between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Manachem Begin.

Emmitsburg, Maryland. October 30, 1985.

Near Catoctin Mountain, Maryland. October 30, 1985.

I turned south, and back downhill, to Wolfsville. Bought two bananas there for 20¢ to fuel up. Further south were fairly large rolling hills… pretty. And eventually I came to the Potomac at Knoxville, Maryland, near Harper's Ferry, WV. Hadn't found much in the way of decent food or grocery stores on this day, so I hit a cafĂ© for a sandwich. More rain was forecast so I was happy to have a roof above my head in the nearby hostel.

Maryland countryside north of Harper's Ferry. October 30, 1985.

Harper's Ferry, WV. October 30, 1985.

Thursday October 31, 1985

Off to DC! I'd never been there before so I was looking forward to seeing the city. I had learned from the hostel about the C&O Canal that parallels the Potomac. Specifically, I learned about the "towpath" alongside the canal, nowadays used as a walking / biking trail. The weather in the morning was better than I thought it would be--still dry. So, I decided to give the towpath a try on my bike. Being off the road was pleasant of course, but I found that there were so many leaves down by now that I couldn't see ruts, roots, rocks and so forth. That made for slow going, especially since I was concerned about my iffy wheel. So I abandoned the path after only about 5 miles, at Brunswick, Maryland.

C&O Canal towpath. Not too many leaves on the path here.

October 31, 1985.

Sign w/ illustration that makes clear the historical use of the towpath.

Mechanical issues surfaced soon enough anyway! Broken spoke (ho-hum……), and then later I got this sensation under my feet that something was wrong with the pedals. Hard to describe, but unmistakable when your feet are well-accustomed to thousands of revolutions that feel normal! I kept looking down trying to figure it out. Finally I noticed that my right crank arm was bent! I got off the bike to look closer, and WOW! It wasn't just bent; it was cracked! I couldn't imagine how this could've occurred. But it was clear that it would break soon. Every time I pedaled the crack would open up and close back… gradually worsening.

Luckily I only had about 20 miles more to DC, where bike shops a'plenty awaited. I managed to limp into the city pedaling with my left leg only (!) for 20 miles! There were no major hills the rest of the way, fortunately. I made my way one-legged along River Road through Bethesda and into Washingon itself.

I found a big grocery store where I happily made up for the slim pickings of the day before. I bought a deli-container of Greek pasta salad, a quart of chocolate milk, and a package of Cherry Newtons. Dunno how I came up with that combo, just wanted something "different."

Through the trip I had made it a point to try all the new types of "Newtons" on the market. I hereby concluded that Cherry Newtons were the worst ones. But I ate the whole package anyway :)

I made my way past familiar-from-pictures sights like Watergate, the Washington Monument, The White House. The rain had held off so I enjoyed just looking around for awhile.

My faithful steed posing before the Washington Monument.

October 31, 1985.

The White House. October 31, 1985. "Hi, is Ron home?"

The broken crank arm! :(

Eventually it was getting on in the day, and since daylight savings time ended the previous weekend it was getting dark earlier in the day. I picked my way through traffic to a rowhouse neighborhood northeast of the Capitol to my friend Jon's house. His roomate David welcomed me in and handed me a welcome beer. Before long Jon was there, and their other roomate, David's sister Susan. That night we went out to a Halloween Party in Falls Church, VA where a ton of college friends and acquaintances were. Great to be among familiar faces after a long stretch on my own!

No comments: