Posted by: robinson2000 | August 7, 2012

Within Touching Distance of Washington DC

5th – 6th August

Chris’s day didn’t begin particularly well as after a poor night’s sleep atop his ever deflating mattress, he was then harassed by jumping insects whilst in the shower, and then set upon by a gang of midges as he was sipping his tea. We were all packed up by 8.30am and set off in hope of a welcoming diner to serve us fresh coffee and hot pancakes. My GPS wasn’t giving anything away and basically plotted us in the arse end of nowhere. So in a hunger fuelled act of desperation, I headed off route and back to the main highway to seek out a proper breakfast. Thankfully at the 10 mile mark, a lovely little family diner popped up and gave our ravenous bodies an excellent breakfast.

Having taken a slightly off-the-route approach for breakfast meant that I had to plan a different route to get us back on track. Our new route took us through Amish territory and although the farmland countryside was spectacular, we were plagued with a strong headwind, big hill climbs, and an ever increasing temperature. It was slow going and we were constantly overtaken by gangs of motorcyclists, riding huge ear splitting bikes. We passed a number of Amish people, going about their business and riding horse drawn carriages, all of which were fitted with indicators and one that had the radio blaring out.

By lunchtime we had covered 34 miles and to get out of the sun, we found a proper real-American bar full of big burly tattooed bikers. I’m glad we hadn’t gestured to any of them when they rode past us as we’d of been in big trouble in this place. We quietly found a corner and ordered and BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich with Fries as we watched some highlights from the Olympics. After lunch it was back to the grindstone as the hills just kept on coming and the insane heat made it really tough going in places. By 4pm we had re-joined the Susquehanna River but had to double back on ourselves to a closer campsite. This meant another 4 mile slog up some vicious hills and with very little water left we were both eager to reach camp. At the 60 mile mark we found Tucquan Campground, down a gravelly track, where I almost came a cropper as my bike skidded away from me at low speed. Chris however was a little less fortunate as after signing in at the campsite office, a huge rain storm hit making us dash for the woods and out of the deluge. As he was riding towards the woods, he picked up a bit of speed on the downhill and lost control on the slippery grass, throwing him clear of the bike and sending him tumbling into the wet grass. He laid there for a second in a state of shock, with the rain pouring down onto his exhausted body before I reached him and dragged his bike into the cover of the trees. A fitting end for what was a very difficult day from start to finish. 

Waking at 7am the following morning, we were treated to a glorious misty scene as we packed up the campsite. Again, my GPS wasn’t giving us any places for breakfast so with an air of apprehension and rumbling bellies, we left the campground and headed back on route. There was no rest for the wicked as we were immediately faced with a couple of extreme gradients fresh off the mark with very little time to ease the stiff legs into the ride. This continued for the first 5 miles of the day before the road gave way to a lovely flat stretch, taking us to a diner at the 11 mile mark. Pancakes, coffee and a bagel made everything better and after the much needed stop, the miles ticked by nicely. A few miles on and we crossed into Maryland, our 9th State of the trip, and a major milestone as it meant the end of the crippling Pennsylvanian hills. This didn’t mean that the hills ended altogether, they were just far fewer between and easier to get up.

After another 20 miles of gentle rolling hills we were on the outskirts of Baltimore, a city that captured my interest and attention after watching the HBO show, The Wire. We approached Baltimore from the north, taking a straight road that ran all the way to the Downtown area and the Financial District. Most of the neighbourhoods along that stretch of road were quite nice, but as soon as we turned westwards and starting moving away from Downtown, the streets became very run down and looked very much from the set of The Wire in some instances. My average speed certainly increased as we really didn’t belong in some of the neighbourhoods and we were picking up plenty of strange looks from passer’s by. The ride was also becoming quite exhausting as the temperature was over 95 degrees Fahrenheit and we kept getting caught at the lights, which with heavy bikes is an absolute killer on the legs. Thankfully the grimy streets gave way to middle-class suburbia and at the 70 mile mark we arrived at out campsite, Patapsco Valley State Park.

Our 15th day on the bikes tomorrow will take our weary bodies straight to the heart of the nation’s capital, Washington DC, and for a much needed days’ rest.

Total Mileage : 906 miles

Top Speed : 44.9 mph (new top speed)

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  1. Hi BRB, well done so far! Still think you’re slightly crazy… you can have some of my birthday money if you’re still pedalling on the 22nd. All our excitement here is coming to a close at 9pm (our time) tonight – are you staying up for the Olympics closing ceremony? …you will be proud of your GB have you kept up to date with it all? Best wishes – BRO

    • Hi BRO, thanks for thinkning i’m still crazy. Your probably right as out of the summer holiday so far, I’ve cycled everyday except 3! WIll definately still be pedaling on the 22nd as have 1200 miles so any donation would be welcome. Seen very little of the Olympics but heard it was really good. Enjoy the next 3 weeks. See you soon. BRB

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