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Hancock, MD and the Western Maryland Rail Trail: Friendly cyclists, delicious food, lots of climbing and a very expensive ceiling

Hancock, MD and the Western Maryland Rail Trail: Friendly cyclists, delicious food, lots of climbing and a very expensive ceiling

45 miles (72 km) – Total so far: 159 miles (256 km)

I said yesterday was a day made for bicycling but I was wrong. TODAY was a day made for bicycling. 77 degrees. Not a cloud in the sky. Brilliant blue sky. On days like these when I’m sitting in my office working, I always think, man I wish I was outside riding my bike! And today I WAS!!!

Last night was a total blast. Both our new cycling friends, Mike and Walt, were there as well as Ian, who is kayaking the Potomac. We all enjoyed dinner together. Mike shared his chocolate bars with everyone, Craig shared his whisky and I made my hot chocolate and Baileys dessert drink for everyone. We all took turns keeping the fire going and had some great conversation. What a fun night!

It was more oatmeal and granola in the morning and we all packed up and headed out. Ian left first and then Craig and me. We said goodbye again to Mike and Walt and hoped to see them again later today.

Our first goal was to get to the Western Maryland Rail Trail, a 22 mile paved trail that runs alongside the C&O. The trail condition was great today but we were very ready for pavement! I had figured out a route that would take us through Fort Frederick Park and on the roads to the end of the WMRT. We stopped at the park store and the lady there told us that the roads were dangerous and we shouldn’t go that route. Normally that wouldn’t deter us because most people who don’t cycle on the roads think ALL roads are dangerous for cyclists. But we listened this time for some reason and headed back down to the C&O which connects with the WMRT at mile 2. I’m glad for the detour however because we had ice cream nutty bars at the park store. YAY for ice cream!

We were so excited to finally reach the WMRT. Everyone raves about how wonderful this trail is, how smooth and easy to ride. But after a couple of miles on the WMRT we realized that we were continuing to cycle uphill and it wasn’t very easy or fun at all. Then it clicked 99.999 % of the C&O cycling journals I’ve read are written by people cycling from Cumberland to D.C., the opposite direction we are going. The grade on the WMRT is very slight and people riding downhill might not even realize why it is so easy. But for us the uphill climb was all too apparent and our quads were burning as we rode into the town of Hancock for lunch at the popular Weavers Restaurant.

We’d heard a lot of good things about Weavers and we weren’t disappointed. We were ravenous and I daresay that I utterly DESTROYED every morsel of food that hit my table: vegetable crab soup, hot turkey sandwich with gravy, whipped potatoes, corn, a huge piece of pumpkin pie and a scoop of butter pecan ice cream. Wow was it delicious!

Back onto the WMRT. We were quite disappointed about the uphill grade but the scenery was splendid. The Canal Path can get monotonous since you’re always down in the valley cycling through the woods. But on the WMRT, we climbed up higher into the mountains and the views were beautiful enough to make it worth the uphill climb.

If you are reading this journal because you are considering doing this ride yourself, you should definitely take the WMRT if you are heading toward D.C. It would be such a fun 22 miles of smooth coasting. If you are heading toward Cumberland, I still recommend it for the breathtaking views. But just be forwarned that you’ll be doing some climbing.

We could often see the C&O trail far below us and eventually started working our way back down to it. But it was weird because we felt like we were still climbing even though it appeared that we were going down to the C&O. I don’t understand the logistics of how that happened. It was like a crazy Escher painting. No matter how far down we went, we were still always climbing uphill.

So we were actually happy to return to the C&O and the trail conditions all day today were superb. All of the mud has dried up now and the scenery continued to be fantastic.

I had a strange experience on the trail today. We were riding by a huge group of cyclists in a group ride going the other way. Everyone was saying hello as they rode by. Then a woman pointed at me as she passed and said, ‘Are you Blue?’ I said, ‘Yes I am!’ and stopped. She couldn’t stop because she was in a long line of cyclists but she waved and yelled back to me, ‘I’ve been reading your journal!!’ That’s the second time that’s happened to me so far. I feel quite famous.

Everyone has been super friendly on the trail today, exuberantly friendly in fact. Usually I’m the exuberantly friendly one yelling out hellos to everyone I pass and it’s nice to be ‘out-friendlied.’ It’s been great!

We stopped in at Bill’s Place in Little Orleans. He’s got quite a reputation. Not only did I read about him in everyone’s journals, but people we met along the trail also talk about him. So we certainly had to check this place out. And it was interesting for sure. It’s a country bar with all kinds of funny things hanging on the walls and Bill is a colorful character, full of stories and country humor. But I found the ceiling to be the most interesting. It is plastered with thousands of one dollar bills. People from all over the place have written their names on the dollar bills and given them to Bill for his famous ceiling. And because I am a geek, I did some figuring and discovered that Bill has around $5,623 plastered to his ceiling!

Craig and I enjoyed a couple of drinks there and then cycled three short miles to the Devil’s Alley hiker/biker camp, our prettiest campsite yet, right on the river. We set up camp and then got cleaned up. Craig pumped the water pump for me while I washed my hair and then Craig took a dip in the icy cold river.

Well I finally found a place in Maryland where I can’t get a cellphone signal. But I’m not upset one bit because that means I finally get a vacation day. So this will be the first day since I left St. Louis that I actually haven’t done any website work. Sweet!

As we were getting the fire going, guess who should show up but our biking buds, Mike and Walt! We shared another dinner and the campsite together again. They are really fantastic guys and we’re enjoying their company very much. This time Mike brought the whiskey for the guys and Walt brought me a Henekin beer and a Snickers bar. YUM.

Breakfast with Walt and Mike. Ian packing up in the background.

Breakfast with Walt and Mike. Ian packing up in the background.

Packing up in the morning. Let's get on the trail!

Packing up in the morning. Let’s get on the trail!

Craig is always living on the edge.

Craig is always living on the edge.

The trail in the morning.

The trail in the morning.

Along the trail

Along the trail

My bike likes to take breaks on the bridges

My bike likes to take breaks on the bridges

And my bike from another angle...

And my bike from another angle…

Yup, he's still on the edge. What a rebel.

Yup, he’s still on the edge. What a rebel.

I just love these bike pics. We've talked about having ONLY pictures of our bikes everywhere and none of us. Our bikes are actually much prettier than we are. What do you think?

I just love these bike pics. We’ve talked about having ONLY pictures of our bikes everywhere and none of us. Our bikes are actually much prettier than we are. What do you think?

*sigh* so pretty here

*sigh* so pretty here

One of the most beautiful spots on the trail today.

One of the most beautiful spots on the trail today.

On the trail

On the trail

The Western Maryland Rail Trail. PAVEMENT! But uphill...

The Western Maryland Rail Trail. PAVEMENT! But uphill…

The Western Maryland Trail

The Western Maryland Trail

There were all these interesting old abandoned houses along the WMRT.

There were all these interesting old abandoned houses along the WMRT.

So beautiful

So beautiful

The WMRT runs right through Hancock. Neat little town.

The WMRT runs right through Hancock. Neat little town.

The food here is fantastic! As you can see, it is obviously a big bicyclist destination.

The food here is fantastic! As you can see, it is obviously a big bicyclist destination.

I love being a short hair girl! For those of you who don't know me, two weeks ago I had butt-length long hair. I've had long hair all my life. I got it all cut off the day before we left on the trip and I LOVE IT! Camping with short hair is sooo easy!

I love being a short hair girl! For those of you who don’t know me, two weeks ago I had butt-length long hair. I’ve had long hair all my life. I got it all cut off the day before we left on the trip and I LOVE IT! Camping with short hair is sooo easy!

YUM lunch at Weavers! Look at all that food!

YUM lunch at Weavers! Look at all that food!

The entire C&O Canal is a "Trash Free Park." There are no garbage cans anywhere; you have to carry your trash out. Some people complain about this but I think it's brilliant. It keeps the raccoons and bears out of the campsites. It allows the park to be maintained much more cheaply because they don't have to drive up and down all 184 miles of the trail every day emptying trash. And it forces people to be more responsible with their trash. People seem to abide by it. The trail is pretty clean.

The entire C&O Canal is a “Trash Free Park.” There are no garbage cans anywhere; you have to carry your trash out. Some people complain about this but I think it’s brilliant. It keeps the raccoons and bears out of the campsites. It allows the park to be maintained much more cheaply because they don’t have to drive up and down all 184 miles of the trail every day emptying trash. And it forces people to be more responsible with their trash. People seem to abide by it. The trail is pretty clean.

This little guy was in the middle of the trail catching some rays. I took his pic and then moved him off the trail.

This little guy was in the middle of the trail catching some rays. I took his pic and then moved him off the trail.

Fort Frederick

Fort Frederick

Fort Frederick

Fort Frederick

The camp store at Fort Frederick. We sat on the front porch and ate nutty buddy ice cream cones. YUM!

The camp store at Fort Frederick. We sat on the front porch and ate nutty buddy ice cream cones. YUM!

Nice!

Nice!

Meet James. He started from D.C. just this morning and has already traveled over 100 miles. He'll have traveled over 200 miles by this evening. He is VERY fast!!!!

Meet James. He started from D.C. just this morning and has already traveled over 100 miles. He’ll have traveled over 200 miles by this evening. He is VERY fast!!!!

This is what the ceiling at Bill's Place looks like. Amazing! Over $5,000 worth of one dollar bills up there.

This is what the ceiling at Bill’s Place looks like. Amazing! Over $5,000 worth of one dollar bills up there.

Look for this sign painted on the cliff wall for Bill's Place. It's to the right and immediately left through the tunnel and you're there!

Look for this sign painted on the cliff wall for Bill’s Place. It’s to the right and immediately left through the tunnel and you’re there!

Bill's Place. It has quite the reputation.

Bill’s Place. It has quite the reputation.

That's Bill himself behind the bar.

That’s Bill himself behind the bar.

Craig building a fire at our campsite.

Craig building a fire at our campsite.

The most beautiful campsite of our trip so far. It will be difficult to surpass this one.

The most beautiful campsite of our trip so far. It will be difficult to surpass this one.

AHHHHHHH......sooooo nice!

AHHHHHHH……sooooo nice!

Devil's Alley hiker/biker camp. Right on the river.

Devil’s Alley hiker/biker camp. Right on the river.

Craig takes a dip in the icy cold Potomac. Brrrrr!

Craig takes a dip in the icy cold Potomac. Brrrrr!

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