Great Allegheney Passage Bike Trip – Day 1

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
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Trip End Aug 03, 2013


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Flag of United States  , West Virginia
Sunday, July 28, 2013



Great Allegheny Passage Bike Trip – Day 1: Washington DC to Harpers Ferry, WV


I sleep well in the RV, but only for 4 hours so I am tired. I quietly get up and go shopping while everyone else continues to sleep.  I want the girls to get as much rest as possible because they did have a draining weekend swimming, and the last thing I want is for them to be tired…65 miles on a trail with 3 tired girls can not lead to a positive outcome!
My plan is to be on the bikes at 8:30am.  My assumption is that we will ride about 10 miles per hour – somewhat slow because it is on a trail, and then take a 15 minutes snack/stretch break every hour.

On day 1 Xiu is going to meet us at Harpers Ferry, which is a 65 mile ride, so my rough calculation is that we will be on bikes for about 8 hours and arrive at 4:30.  Well, let the adventure begin…

The morning goes pretty well, but by the time I get the bikes off the RV, reinstall tires, feed kids, apply sunscreen, attach bags, etc…we finally get on the path at 9:30.  Late, but not a big issue.  I also have to get Xiu pointed in the right direction in the RV.  I am very nervous for her, but she actually does great.  We asked some folks to take a group picture at the start of the trail, and we are set to depart.  Everyone is quite enthusiastic as most adventures begin, but I can also clearly feel the apprehension and fear, especially with Emma.

At the start, there are 2 paths right next to each other – one is paved and one is dirt.  In my infinite wisdom, I say we will start on the paved one as long as we can.  Well, we ride for several miles and slowly the dirt trail separates, but we don't even notice.  5 miles later I notice that we seem to me travel ling northeast around Washington instead of west toward Harpers Ferry, WV.  At an unmarked intersection we stop to ask 2 experienced looking riders which way the C&O goes, and they look at each other in a puzzled manner.  I know I am in trouble then, and sure enough they reply, "Well, you are not on the C&O, you are on the Capital Beltway."  As I see panic come across the girls faces, and tears immediately come into Katelyn’s eyes, I calmly ask, “Okay, could you tell me the easiest way to get back to the C&O.”  Inside I am just praying that they have some easy solution that perhaps adds a mile, but they reply, “ Well, the only option is to go back down this path (pointing in the direction we just rode) about 5 miles where the Capital Beltway joins the C&O.  At this point I immediately begin to process contingencies while Katelyn starts to cry.  Everyone realizes what this means…we just rode 10 extra miles for nothing, and Mommy is already on her way to Harpers Ferry.  I tell the girls that I am sooooo sorry, but I just made a mistake.  I try to spin the positive and tell them that we only rode 5 miles, but that doesn’t go very far.  Emma could see that I was upset about my mistake, so while Madison and Katelyn are yelling at me, she come to my defense and says, “Come on guys, it is not Dad’s fault and he is doing his best.  We can still make it.”  Wow…Emma who was the most scared to begin just blew me away with her maturity!  Sure enough, the other girls quickly recovered and we backtracked the painful 5 miles only to be sitting in the exact spot that we began…only now there is no RV, it is now 10:30am, and we have rode 10 miles!  Everyone is still positive, but I know I will be paying for this mistake in another 6 hours!

After a snack, we restart our ride, this time following the correct trail.   It rained the night before, so there are many puddles and 1-inch mud spots that cross the whole trail.  Overall the condition is not too bad, but there is quite a lot of swerving and navigating around these small obstacles which I know will add up to take a toll on us all.  Also, all of the bumps seem to be making it much harder on our butts that we expected!  Probably the biggest positive factor is that we are in constant shade, so we stay quite cool.  The girls find the ride a bit boring because it is often just riding through the woods, but there are also many historical markers which they understandably have little interest in stopping to learn about.

We press on, and as we get to about mile 50 on the trail…which is actually now mile 60, the girls are feeling the pain in their butt!  Their legs feel perfectly fine, but all of the bouncing is a bit of a challenge!  The girls stay pretty motivated by counting the mile markers, anxiously awaiting mile 61.  When we hit mile 61 (which in reality is mile 71 for us) and the bridge for Harpers Ferry is not immediately visible, Madison got some surge of exhaustion and/or hormones and sort of flipped out…”Where is it?  We should be done.  What is wrong with this trail? Etc…”  Within a mile the bridge appears and the anger subsides!  However, for those who have been to Harpers Ferry know, all is not done!  First, I need to carry all of the bikes up a spiral metal staircase to the top of the bridge.  The girls actually argued with me to carry their own bikes, but the last thing I wanted when they are tired is for them to fall in the stairs trying to carry their bikes, so I told them to relax.  Once at the top, we carried our bikes across the bridge to the town of Harpers Ferry, where we had to ride another 2.5 miles up a VERY steep 1 mile hill.  The funny thing about this is that as we were walking on the bridge, the girls Pop Pop called and advised not to try to do the ride up the hill after such a long ride.  When I told the girls this, they acted almost offended that their ability was being questioned, and they each insisted that riding up the hill was the only option – and they made it!

We final ended out long day – over 70 miles – at about 7pm.  Thankfully Xiu had dinner ready for us, and after a unpacking and a shower everyone was ready for sleep!

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