Sunday, June 19, 2016

Wedding Day Blends Our Families

     My parents are 91 and 86 years old, so they were allowed to wear sneakers to their grandson Bill's wedding.

      Meanwhile, Amanda was gathering her gown together for the short ride to the wedding.

    My parents, me, family friend Liz, and my sister (mother of Bill the groom) and brother in law Barry arrived early to the outdoor wedding held at the Historic Blenheim. It was a beautiful day, too.

        The ceremony was meaningful and short and sweet. And when Mr. and Mrs. Kemp were official, their smiles were very infectious.

       Nice place to eat, big yard for the kids to play.

     Catered meal was superb!

Cakes were scrumptious; ate two pieces.

     DJ with dancing and talking and meeting folks was lots of fun. I wholeheartedly approve of this union! Amanda's extended family of eight uncles and aunts plus all those kids are a welcomed addition to our smaller family.

It was a wedding to remember and cherish!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Potomac River at Harpers Ferry

     At the tri-state meeting point of West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia is the beautiful Potomac River. I didn't plan my visit to investigate river access points and shuttle services, but next visit here to float this beautiful river, I will.

     I unloaded my bike on the eastern side of the Potomac and took a 15 mile bike ride up the canal path, the very same Chesapeake and Ohio Canal that begins in Cumberland, Maryland and goes south to near Washington DC. From the get-go, I saw people enjoying the outdoors.

This woman (about my age) is walking 15 miles daily on the towpath until August, when she flies to Spain for 45 days to complete the Camino de Santiago.

     And Doug, a retired man who erected this tent on the shores of the Potomac is from Texas. He too escapes Texas' summers. This summer he's walking from Washington DC to Pittsburgh on the canal towpath. He doesn't trust the Internet (typical Texan native) so I agreed not to take his photograph.

     Saw several bikers loaded down with gear, too. One had a solar unit on top of his gear. But most of the time, I had this trail to myself for 15 miles up and back.

Very woodsy canal path; much different from the path at Cumberland.

Path was in good condition, too. Lots of large trees on the Potomac side of the path.

Nice rock outcroppings on the canal side of the path.

The Potomac is a wide shallow rocky river at certain sections. I think these kayaks are inflatable ones.

Lots of tubers, too.

     Saw a doe and her fawn, and a Great Blue Heron catch dinner. I enjoyed the 15 miles up and the 15 miles back. Could have gone further north on this easy path. It was easy on the body, easy on the eyes and mind, too.

     Harpers Ferry which sits on the other side of the Potomac by the way, is very touristy. It was a pleasant drive through the well-preserved historic towns of Shepherdstown and Sharpsburg, but the village of Harpers Ferry is connected to the Historical National Park and they have lots of rules, regulations and fees to park (with a shuttle bus). To "see" it all would require planning. So, I didn't last long there.

     I'm taking a little break from my travels; visiting my sister in Laurel, Maryland. We have a wedding in the family this weekend! Will share it all next week.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Maryland's Great Allegheny Passage

     The Great Allegheny Passage is 150 miles, a bike trail, from Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The first 15 miles of the bike trail out of Cumberland parallels the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad which offers train excursions on weekends.

 I biked 18 miles from Cumberland to the Borden Tunnel; the trail surface was very good fine gravel. When I reached the Borden Tunnel, I was relieved because I was returning home. I had climbed 1,552 feet in third gear with gusty headwinds for about three hours. My battery was running low and I was hot and tired. I was really looking forward to a swim back at the YMCA in a 78-degree pool!

How gusty is it there? Gusty enough to put a few wind farms on top of these Western Maryland mountains. Here is the little town of Mount Savage sitting below a wind farm.

I took a break at Frostburg where I met Bryan and his pet rat Minuette. She's two and one-half years old and was saved from being on a menu for pet snakes.

     And when I saw a very pregnant rider pass me while eating my lunch, I figured she was due to have that baby tomorrow. Later, when they were stopped along the trail and I was passing them, I was concerned. Maybe her water broke? Maybe she was having contractions? But, no they assured me all was fine, and the baby wasn't due for another two weeks. It's their first baby! and they were practicing towing a baby carriage.

On the way back home, I turned off the electricity and coasted almost the entire 18 miles back to the campground. The scenery coming home looked much better!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Cumberland, Maryland, Meeting Place for Hikers and Bicyclists

     With much luck, I stumbled upon a campground bargain at the YMCA in Cumberland, Maryland. For only $12 daily, I can lock my bike at night under the pavilion (covered in photo below with green tarp), sleep comfy inside La Lair on a spacious parking lot, walk across the street to swim laps and shower, connect to their WiFi to do this post and check my email, leave in the morning on a long bicycle ride and charge my bike when I return. Everything I need is here in one place!

I'm not the only camper. Jeff and Jason rented a Uhaul truck. They drove to Cumberland and will bike on the Great Allegheny Passage to their homes near the Pittsburgh area.

     And Ray is walking with just a backpack to Pittsburgh on the same trail. He's a world traveler. Later this summer he will finish the Appalachian Trail for the second time and in September he returns to Nepal to hike the Mount Everest mountain range and help rebuild where earthquakes devastated communities.

     Two trails connect here in Cumberland. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park is about 185 miles long and goes south from Cumberland, while the Great Allegheny Passage is about 150 miles and goes north from Cumberland. So Cumberland draws lots of bicyclists and hikers who are either going north or south. Cumberland sits on the shores of the Potomac River and is nestled in the Appalachian mountain range.

 The mule was the backbone of the canal boat business from Cumberland to near Washington DC. I like the way the artist captured the mule's personality.

Two sets of mules were used by canal boats; a team of two pulled while the other team of two rested here in the bow of the canal boat. A ramp was used to exchange the teams. The man who showed me the mule stalls is an unpaid volunteer by the way.

Life on a canal boat looks pretty homey to me! Inside was a little coal stove, too. I could live like this . . . . bring my horse Topaz . . . .

     The canal boat business primarily hauled coal. It was a family business and the canal boat was their home; children helped their parents run the entire business. The boat in the photo is a replica.

     The trains couldn't transport coal cheaper than canal boats until the mid-1870s, and when they became the dominant player in coal delivery, it was all downhill for the canal boat business. And still today, folks can hear the constant train toots, long and short toots, frequently. This train below crosses the historical canal which looks pretty dismal.

The section I rode, from Cumberland to Oldtowne (about 15 miles), is dried-up, swampy, filled with log debris or weeds.

There's no effort to restore the canal's former glory. To see old photos of how beautiful it once was, click here.

     And a few miles of the trail itself are rutted and dried, forcing me to stay in the rut. I slowed down to 5 mph, and even turned off my electric motor. No use wasting electricity if I can't go faster than 5 mph.

     I met this young family on the towpath; there's a 2-ish year old girl being towed by her father (not in photo). The older daughter was encouraged to finish a certain number of miles by her father, all on a kiddy bike with training wheels. She was quite proud of her helmet too!

This big ole' tree along the Potomac River (which parallels the canal sporadically) is probably 30 feet in circumference.

Not much good scenery; an exception was this barn.

Folks who ride or hike the entire 185 miles can camp at designated areas.

 A nice small area of rock outcroppings along the canal.

     Interesting locks and dams along the way too. The building is called a "lockhouse". The volunteer on the canal boat told me it only took about 15 minutes to work a dam and lock to get a boat to the next level.

Today or tomorrow, I'll bike north on the other trail.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Stormy Weather at Mount Storm, West Virginia

Seems I’ve been twisting around two hundred switchbacks . . . .

winding, descending, ascending . . . .

Sure glad they're maintaining these beautiful mountain roads.

     I've been driving all over West Virginia’s Appalachian mountain range for the past three or so days.  Karl, I didn't make it to the Swiss village of Helvetia (population 58) but I was on the same mountain in Monterville. Will keep Helvetia on my list.  South of Elkins was this unique brick barn and barnyard.

     The weather has been fickle for a few days now. Can’t decide if it wants to rain or shine, so it does both within minutes of each other.

     Got caught in rain on a short walk to see the Blackwater Falls. The Blackwater River goes west of the Appalachian mountain range, it then goes south to join the Dry Fork River, then oddly goes north to join the Ohio River. This West Virginia mountain water ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.

 I’m not sure why we’re all inclined to take photos of waterfalls.

     I’m always fascinated by trees that co-exist with boulders. These tree roots look like octopuses, hanging on for dear life literally.

     I was amused by the town name of Mount Storm in West Virginia, because situated near the top of a mountain, this town probably gets the brunt of the mountain’s fickle weather.

     I stopped at Mount Storm’s public library, very friendly staff and patrons. Had someone said, “Fire up the grill, I’ll get the hamburgers and buns,” I think half the town would have shown up at the library.

     Mr. Bradley (man in photo above) grilled me with a hundred questions about La Lair and my travels. Why was I in West Virginia, and even more to the point, “Why are you in Mount Storm of all places??!” He couldn’t fathom that someone aimlessly wandered into a tiny town that’s not on the tourist circuit. He called me over to his computer terminal, showing me his research on Dodge Ram ProMasters. I think Dodge Ram should finance my travels to help advertise their ProMasters.

   I waited out the blustery cold fickle weather at another clean, well-run US Army Corps of Engineers’ campground a little north of Mount Storm, the Robert Craig Memorial Campground. Their brochure claims there’s a “trail” here but mostly it’s a doggy walk pathway in a mowed weedy patch. Good place to walk a dog and get exercise though.

     Today, I ventured into Maryland to check out the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park which features a bicycle trail hundreds of miles long. Their tourist center is in Cumberland, Maryland. When I got out of La Lair to walk to the tourist center for a trail map, a woman with a bicycle began asking me a bunch of questions about La Lair! This van is very popular! She's a local, and she told me that the YMCA here in town has a place for campers. How lucky can a camper get!? For $12 daily, I get WIFI, showers, pool and sauna, plus a safe place to park all night and all day while I bike on the bike trail! It's been another lucky sequence of events. I'll be here for four days . . . .