Day 21: Whitsett, PA – Little Orleans, MD , distance- 169.4 miles , climbing – 4031 feet
With 300 or so miles to the finish, my plan was to enjoy the last two days and ease out a bit. Finishing in one day with all the rain and accumulated fatigue was not something I considered. In my opinion, the risk was just greater than the benefits. I went ahead and booked a motel in Frostburg, MD, a town situated ~170 miles away from where I started this morning.
It’s worth noting that the previous night was horrible since I couldn’t get any consistent sleep. Everything was hurting at this point and my limbs were swelling. At the same time, it felt like nothing can stop me now. I tried reducing my water intake and consuming some anti – inflammatory foods to help ease out the pain and swelling. It was hard to find quality food at times but I did the best I could. Almonds were one of my go to daily snacks. They were easily available at gas stations and are very beneficial. Not only are they rich on protein needed for recovery, but also have anti-inflammatory functions. Same goes with tuna, leafy greens and berries and I tried to consume them as much as I can when they were available.
The rainstorms never stopped since Missouri. . . It has now become daily routine to look at radars and weather predictions in attempt to strategize better and decide when will be best to stop and take shelter, and when was best to ride. However, we know how the famous Mike Tyson quote goes:
” Everyone have a plan until they get punched in the mouth”
This morning was disgusting. It was raining like crazy, the trail was a mess, I was a mess and my bike was a mess too! The GAP bike path was okay when dry but the storms made it complete s### show. Mud was flying all over me, branches and trees were down and it was hard to avoid the big puddles.
The situation was so bad that I could barely spin my wheels from mud. It had now become daily routine to stop and use my water bottles to spray the bike and wash it off.
In was early morning when I arrived at the Sheetz gas station in Connellsville, PA. Being from Maryland, this was one of my favorite local stops for food when biking. My mud covered self received few crazy looks while parking the bike outside. At least the sun was out and the rain has stopped for the moment.
The biggest problem were my shoes, they were full of water and mud. I pulled as much tissue as I can from the store and stuffed it in my shoes, quite the scene. . . So much food was obtained here but this was a habit of mine from having nothing for long stretches in the desert out west. You should have seen me laying on the floor by the antifreeze bottles, drinking and eating like a wild animal. Before someone yelled at me, I decided to pack the bags with all the remaining food and get the party train moving.
It didn’t take long before my bike was submerged in mood again and the drivetrain was barely keeping up. The bike after all was the biggest champ during this adventure 🙂
It was so great to receive a ton of love and encouraging messages, people were coming out to cheer us on. However, I have to admit that I was a bit frustrated with some of the messages online. There were people insisting on telling me how I should do certain things and I know their intentions were good. If this was coming from someone that has done this kind of riding, I tried to listen. At the end of the day, I make my own decisions and have to live with them. If I mess up, I want it to be on me. Quite honestly, I have proven myself capable with all the long distance events completed in the past 20 years.
Despite the nasty weather, I was pleasantly surprised to see a group of young adults camping and enjoying themselves near the Outflow Camping Area in Confluence, PA.
My pre race research revealed that I will find good coffee here but that was not the case. The local store was closed so I had to settle for more shitty gas station coffee. I wanted quality espresso so bad that day. Either I arrived too early or it was closed permanently, who knows.
If you look at the elevation profile, you would assume that I was climbing a lot but in reality, the terrain that day was pancake flat with gradients never above 2%. I was now biking along the Casselman River, a tributary of the Youghiogheny River. Apparently, this was a great place to fish for rainbow trout. I need to return here with some friends, fishing rods and a cooler full of beer.
Next up was Eastern Continental Divide.
This was the highest point of the Great Allegany Passage, sitting at 3266 feet above sea level. Everything afterwards seemed to be downhill but it wasn’t. The divide apparently separates waters flowing into the Atlantic Ocean from those flowing to the Gulf of Mexico. It was followed by the Big savage tunnel. Kind of remarkable how many bridges were build here.
The next section had signs showing the road being closed when it was actually passable. Some of the infrastructure could use more maintenance for sure. There were mixed reports from the racers ahead and some locals on what is opened and what is closed. One specific location was the Paw Paw Tunnel. The expectations were for me to cross it the following morning.
It was late afternoon when I finally crossed the Maxon Dixon Line. This also meant that I was now in Maryland, such a major relief to be in my home state.
The rain just wasn’t letting off today but the town of Frostburg serving as final destination for the day was nearby. Frostburg is a very nice historic town featuring museums, arts, galleries, planetarium and many festivals. Apparently, they also have some history of bad weather and even major tornados (unusual for such rough terrain)
On June 2, 1998, an F4tornado struck Frostburg and the adjacent Eckhart Mines valley, damaging more than 125 homes and Frost Elementary School. This tornado refutes the myth that tornadoes do not occur in rough terrain
After crossing some railroad tracks, the route went up this twisty hill right before entering town. There were many art sculptures nearby and I was happy to be there at daytime. Have I been here during the night, I would definitely experienced some vivid hallucinations 🙂
At this point, I was dying for proper accommodations and sound sleep. Charlie’s Motel was few miles off the official route but well worth it. But first, I made a stop at the local liquor store and purchased some beer, it was party time. This would be my final night before the big finish !
Upon arrival at the motel, I saw sign directing me to go to the bar in order to get my room keys. A nice gentleman greeted me there and we walked together to his little office. Apparently, my Orbitz reservation meant nothing but luckily, he was able to find available room. The room itself was super nice, probably one of the best $50 spend during the entire race to sleep. It was a small room but super clean and I had everything needed, including refrigerator and a microwave. The only negative was the lack of washer & dryer units, forcing me to waste some time handwashing everything. All I could think was to place my kit between two towels in hopes that it will dry off a bit.
It was now time to talk with family, watch some TV, eat and enjoy few beers. It turns out, the couple next to my room were having way more fun than me. They must`ve made at least one baby that night and the noise was out control 🙂 Luckily, I was tired and having two beers in my system put me directly to sleep.
It had to be like 4 pm upon arrival in Frostburg and the rain was coming down hard. I checked the radar before going to bed and it appeared that it will stop after midnight. The plan was to leave exactly at12:30 am for the very same reason. This also meant that I was off the bike for 8 hours but likely slept for about 6.5 hours.
I went outside after waking up, it was still raining but just drizzling. There was no choice but to wear my damp kit and hope for the best. At least it looked like I slept through the worst of the storm.
The motel owner told me about 7/11 store in town and according to him, my only option for breakfast. The food was shitty but what choice did I really had ? More shitty coffee was consumed here plus few breakfast rollups. It was Saturday night and few shady subjects were nearby. They were likely going or coming back from a party. The location did not look like the safest place in the world but at least I noticed police car drive by. I ate quickly and disappeared into the darkness. An hour or so later, the rain has fully stopped and I was so grateful. Best of all, this was the last time I would be wet !
Regardless of when I slept each day, I was counting my days beginning of 5 am Pacific time (7 am on the east coast).
Right before arriving in Little Orleans, MD, I passed through the famous Paw Paw tunnel. It was built to bypass the Paw Paw Bends in 1836, a six-mile stretch of the Potomac River containing five horseshoe-shaped bends . Six million bricks were used and the tunnel has been described as “the greatest engineering marvel along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.
There was online chatter that it might be closed but luckily for me, it was open. The feeling inside of it was surreal. A bit creepy I should add and dangerous to ride through. The pavement was super bumpy and I was moving with walking speed while being extra cautious. To my left was railing, probably 3 feet off the ground and the Potomac river was running next to it. I could easily see someone falling off into the river !
There history about this bridge is very interesting:
Construction was expected to take only two years and to cost $33,500. Fights between workers and the extreme difficulty of the work extended the project by over a decade and by $566,500. These difficulties contributed to the Canal ending construction early at Cumberland instead of Pittsburgh, which was the original ending point
There were occasional fistfights between boatmen who refused to afford each other the right-of-way
The construction of the Tunnel is colored with violent activity between workers of differing ethnicities. These clashes would lead to all-out brawls that ended in the destruction of local saloons and other establishments. The lockhouse at lock 64 2/3 burned down overnight, and the body of the lockkeeper was found inside. Some believe that his spirit now roams through the Tunnel. Paranormal specialists have also described seeing inexplicable shadows and hearing disembodied whispers
Distance to the finish – 142 miles.
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