On Your Left

Bicycles, Travel, and Photography

Thats it folks

I’ve posted photos from my C&O/GAP bike ride from October 6 through 22, 2014.
Those of you who have been following these, thanks for looking in.


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Rock and Roll

On my way to the C&O GAP bike ride, I stopped in Cleveland for a short visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I only had a few hours, one could spend an entire day there or more.

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Washington DC

Epilogue to the C&O/GAP bike ride….

We spent a few hours visiting a few important sites in Washington DC. These are some of the most photographed locations in the world.

  • The White House
    Washington Monument
    WWII Monument
    Vietnam War Memorial
    Lincoln Memorial
    Reflecting Pond
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    Team Lighthouse 2014 part 2

    Thursday morning, we left Cumberland Maryland to begin the Grand Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail. The GAP is 150 miles of crushed limestone, partially parallel to existing rail lines but mostly on abandoned rail beds.

    First part was to climb the easy 1.75% grade to Frostburg MD, cross over the MD and PA border on the Mason Dixon line, and then the eastern continental divide finally ending at Rockwood, PA, about 50 miles ahead. We had lunch in Frostburg.

    It was easy, but slow. Riding on dirt (like the C&O) or crushed limestone (the GAP) is much slower than riding on the road. It seems to take at least 50% more effort or maybe even 100% more effort to go similar distances. It was late afternoon by the time we crested the divide and headed downhill and we knew we were in trouble. I think my exact words were something like Holy **** when I realized we had 25 miles to go and we were concerned about our ability to make it there before dark.

    My riding companions knew we had to cross the Salisbury Viaduct and that I had no clue what we were facing. The viaduct is 101 feet in the air and 2000 feet long. Lets just say they surrounded me and we shuffled across the bridge. Word is that I was breathing quite heavy. I don’t remember any of it other than facing a cyclist coming from the other way with fear in his face too.

    We hustled into Rockwood looking for the Husky Haven Campground. We searched the campground just as it got dark and found another camper who let us know that the office was across the river and we had another mile or so to go. We arrived at the office to check in, and noticed our bags had arrived safely and perfectly. The services organized by Bike the Gap worked each day and was flawless.

    Given the late hour, we asked permission and were allowed to camp in the back yard of the office (which happened to be very close to the showers).

    Friday we awoke, had a great breakfast at a train themed coffee shop near the campground and then left for Connellsville. This day was beautiful, we rode through the Ohiopyle State Park a beautiful park of 19000 acres along the Ohiopyle River. One could spend a week at the park.

    We arrived in Connellsville PA late afternoon and discovered that our accommodations for the evening were the other side of town, in fact were beyond the city boundaries, on a highway about 3 miles from the trail. The Melody Motor Lodge is everything you would expect from the name. Pink and lime green tiles in the bathroom of this strip motel with lots of trucks parked out in front. While it was well worn, it was very clean and perfect for our needs. Although the 3 women shared a room, there was not room for the 3 of them and 3 bikes so I inherited another bike for the evening.

    It looked like dinner was going to be a problem. The only apparent choice was Subway at Walmart. The café next door was closed. The owner of the motel referred us to a supper club about 3/4 mile further down the road with the words “bicycles seems to like this place” and she was correct; we had a nice meal.

    Saturday morning we awoke to heavy rain. After considering our options for quite a long breakfast at the café next door, we decided to just ride slowly and especially carefully. We definitely were very wet until it cleared around 1PM. We had a final lunch together at a pub near the trail around 1PM. They day was spent riding from one small town to another: West Newton, Buena Vista, Boston, McKeesport, Dravo and arrived back at Homestead around 5PM.

    The last 15 miles or so were spent riding past closed factories (US Steel and more); next to the rail lines which carry freight into Pittsburgh. There was one more bridge I had to muster across, but managed to walk quite safely on the shoulder of the bridge.

    Our luggage arrived just as we arrived at the Pump House, where our cars were parked for the week. The luggage shuttle worked perfectly all week and Bike The Gap is recommended by us based on our experience.

    We managed to ask another cyclist to take our photo ( I’m not in any of my photos but this one) to celebrate the completion of our ride.

    I drove to just past Toledo Ohio that night and arrived home mid-day on Sunday. The rest of the group had a longer drive and arrived home Sunday evening.

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    Team Lighthouse 2014

    Team Lighthouse was a small group of 4 in 2014. We hope the rest of the group will join us in future years. Reid bailed out just 2 days before the ride (what’s up with that?).

    Despite the small group, it was a great ride. In past years we have done a number of organized state rides which each have between 50 and several thousand riders. Team Lighthouse has been as many as 20 in some years.

    I drove to Pittsburgh, PA from Chicago. Nancy drove from Des Moines to Champaign IL where she met up with Vickie (Kansas City, MO) and Carolyn (somewhere in Kansas Toto) and the three of them drove to Pittsburgh together. We met up on Saturday morning where we had arranged a shuttle for ourselves, bikes, and belongings to Washington DC. Sara at Bike the Gap did a great job answering our many questions and organizing the shuttle services for us. We arrived in DC mid afternoon and spent a few hours touring a few of the important sites in DC.

    Sunday at 8AM we left our hotel (in Arlington Virginia), crossed over the (Francis Scott) Key Bridge into DC and rode about along the C&O to Mile 0 so we would start at the true beginning of the ride. Our route was planned for 61 miles.

    At this point we were truly on the route and our 7 day adventure. The initial part of the route was shared with a TRI event in DC so we were surrounded by runners and other cyclists for the first portion and headed to Milepost 60 at Harpers Ferry, WV. Once exiting DC, we spent the rest of the day in Maryland. Having spend the night in Virginia, we rode in VA, DC, MD, and WV that day.

    Great Falls was beautiful and we encountered the “creature” you can see and help identify on this page.

    We expected some lunch facilities at Whites Ferry. The ferry at Whites Ferry is the last cable ferry service across the Potomac River. Unfortunately there was no meals available so lunch was cookies and chips. As you can see from the photos, it was beautiful day riding on the canal towpath.

    We arrived at Harpers Ferry around 4PM. Had dinner and then walked up the very steep hill to the Teahorse Hostel to clean accommodations which included a great waffle breakfast. Laurel has a shed where we were able to lock our bikes overnight. It turned out that Laurel had shuttled our bags from DC to Harpers Ferry. The way into Harpers Ferry from the C&O is to carry ones bicycle up a iron spiral staircase, walk across the river on a wooden bridge which is shared with rail freight trains, and descend into Harpers Ferry. Lets just say I opted for another method and owe Laurel a huge thank you.

    Monday morning we left for “4 Locks”. 4 Locks isn’t a town, but rather a place on the canal where there are 4 of the many locks. We “shopped” for dinner at 7-11 in Harpers Ferry and placed it all with our bags. Before leaving for “4 locks” we spend some time exploring Harpers Ferry.

    Our riding for this day was 50 miles.

    We crossed over Antietam Creek, but did not have time to head over to Sharpsburgh to the Antietam National Battlefield. This was the site of an important battle during the Civil War.

    We stopped many times during the day for photos and to explore the surroundings; ended up at Williams Port MD (near Hagerstown) around 5 at the The Williamsport Creamery (Ice Cream is a staple for all bike rides). We began to see a trend with our slow pace to the end we began thinking that Team Lighthouse had morphed into Team 20 by 2PM. We arrived at 4 Locks just about 7PM when it began to get dark. I highly recommend staying in one the lock houses if you have a chance. Lockhouse 49, our stop for the night, was perfect.

    Tuesday, our third day, was even slower than Monday. We stopped almost immediately after leaving the lockhouse at Fort Frederick and investigated that area for quite a while. We only had 30 miles to ride on Tuesday, heading towards Little Orleans. We chose to continue along the canal towpath rather than deviating onto the Western Maryland Rail Trail which is paved.

    Despite our best efforts, we arrived at Little Orleans (milepost 141) by 4PM. We were warned that the Little Orleans campground was a couple of miles up a 12% grade and the only place for food is a bar named Bills Place. Unfortunately we were not informed that Bills Place is closed on Tuesdays. In honor of our arrival, Bills Place was open that Tuesday. OK, I embellished a bit, Bills Place was open as there was an annual fishing tournament, not just for us. We sat and talked until the fishing event was served their dinner and left Bills at 7PM, arriving at the Little Orleans campground in time to set up our tents before sunset, but barely.

    Wednesday we left the campground early. The night was quite loud, the various insects and birds were singing all night: a real symphony of nature. We had about 40 miles to get to Cumberland MD, the end of the C&O and start point for the GAP. The highlight of the day was the Paw Paw Tunnel. We arrived at Cumberland early afternoon.

    We headed to the CTC bike shop as I needed some serious brake adjustments and some bungee cords to keep my day pack attached to my bike. CTC is located on Canal Place, just at the end of the C&O. They were great folks. I recommend a visit.

    Just as we checked into our hotel, a Marriott Fairfield Inn, located quite close to the trail (200 yards); an old acquaintance checked into the same hotel. Jim and a friend were on a motorcycle trip and they joined us for dinner. BBQ at the Crabby Pig. I think Carolyn had Maryland Crabcakes again for the 4th time this trip.

    Thus we ended the C&O Canal bike ride, 184.5 miles, 4 days. Read about the rest of the journey in the next post.

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    Mason Dixon Line

    Between Frostburg and the Eastern Continental Divide, on the GAP trail, you pass over the Mason Dixon Line. While well known for its association as the dividing mark between North and South in the US Civil War, in reality Mason and Dixon were surveyors who reconciled the argument between Maryland and Pennsylvania regarding the border between those two states from 1763 to 1767, nearly a hundred years before the war.

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    C&O-GAP Points of Interest

    I sorted my photos from the C&O and GAP ride into various categories that I have been posting the past few days. This collection is a mish-mosh of the rest of my photos.

    Lunch stop in Shepardstown WV: Climbed a pretty steep path up from the towpath and crossed over a river on a highway bridge into Shepardstown.

    Lunch stop in Frostburg, MD: Climbed an even steeper path and road into town The path was decorated with some interesting cycling art works.

    Leaving Cumberland and starting the GAP was a 26 mile 1.75% grade slow but easy climb to the Eastern Continental Divide. The divide was crowded with many cyclists and their cameras. East of the divide water flows to the Chesapeake Bay and west of the divide water flows to the Gulf of Mexico. We had some rain that day and some beautiful views into the surrounding area.

    Along the GAP we came to an interesting formation, a Tufa.

    On our last day of riding, leaving Connellsville, near the Youghiogheny River, we came upon the Dravo Cemetery. Once lost and forgotten, it has be refurbished. Dravo is a popular site for cyclists and hikers due to the nice pavilion and washrooms

    Finally some interesting rock formations with red rocks and flowing water.

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    Fort Frederick

    Fort Frederick sits just off the C&O Canal near Four Locks, where we spent the night at Lockhouse 49. This location is close to the location where the Western Maryland Rail Trail parallels the C&O. We chose to continue on the C&O rather than ride the 21 mile paved WMRT. Our goal was the ride the C&O so we continued along the dirt C&O trail.

    Fort Frederick was built in 1758 and has a nice stone wall protecting the barracks. One of the situations with cycle touring is that sites of interest are not always available during the right hours. The museum was closed and we had the entire park to ourselves (other than one couple we suspected were having a private rendezvous).

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    Harpers Ferry

    We spent a few hours in Harpers Ferry before departing for lockhouse 49 on the second day of riding. Harpers Ferry is worth a much longer visit and learning about its historical importance. I would like to spend an entire day in Harpers Ferry exploring.

    John Brown plays a significant role in the pre-civil war abolitionist history. “Old John Brown’s body lies moldering in the grave.”

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    Bridges and Aqueducts

    Along the C&O and GAP there are a number of interesting bridges, remnants of bridges, and aqueducts. The aqueducts are the most interesting, being “bridge” for the canal itself to pass over other streams and rivers. The Monocracy Aqueduct is one of the largest on the canal and is quite remarkable.

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