The undiscovered country

Wednesday saw us cycling across undiscovered country for the whole group. This was the part of the C&O Canal Trail that Chuck and I were forced to bypass in 2011. From the day we finished that 2011 tour, I have sworn that I would return and complete this section of trail.

The smell of bacon and french toast greeted us at the Little Orleans Lodge. Steve, the innkeeper, had prepared a full breakfast. We were joined by a father and daughter making the journey from west to east. They reported excellent trail conditions ahead.

DSCN0251We opted to use our SAG wagon to shuttle us back to the trailhead. TVH, our SAG driver, continues to do an excellent job. This morning saw all of our cyclists riding out of Little Orleans bright and early. It did not take us very long to arrive at the Paw Paw Tunnel. We were greeted by a long corridor lined by steep rocky walls and a boardwalk over the canal. It offered some great photo-ops.

The tunnel was definitely a walk-your-bike type of place. The narrow trail shared the tunnel with the canal. It was somewhat muddy, dark and perched precariously above the water. A railing did keep cyclists safe from the water.
DSCN0255The morning passed fast on this easy ride into Oldtown. This area of Maryland is somewhat remote with little options to eat or shop. The Schoolhouse Kitchen , another recommendation from the C&O Yahoo Group, seemed to be our only option. It turned out to be one of those memorable tour experiences. The food was decent, the staff was super friendly, and the setting could not be more fun.

It is exactly as the name implied, a former 1960s era school cafeteria, actually a cafeterium, converted into a restaurant. It was quintessential small town America. The walls were lined with graduating class pictures from years past. The stage was decorated with a farm background. Locals were welcoming and came over to talk to this obvious group of strangers. It is definitively a stop worth making.
20140521221130859The afternoon was pretty uneventful other than a single flat tire. The scenery was pretty nice and similar to the previous day as the trail wound along the river into Cumberland. The approach to the city was very scenic with church steeples and bridges welcoming us to town.

We arrived in Cumberland in late afternoon. It was exhilarating to cross the finish of the C&O at the Western Maryland Railroad Terminal, 186 miles from our start.  A bonus for the day was that our hotel was adjacent to our finish right on the trail. We strolled around the area shopping at the Cumberland Trail Connection, an excellent bike shop, and had dinner at the Crabby Pig right next door.

20140521221017630This morning we are in for a long day. We are off to Confluence on the Great Allegheny Passage. We will climb 20+ miles on the Great Allegheny Passage before beginning a 40 mile downhill cycle into our favorite destination on the GAP. This is a signal that our week’s vacation has crossed the halfway point.

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