Day 78: Confluence, PA to Cumberland, MD (November 15)

Waking up to a hard drizzle or maybe rain, I went to eat breakfast at the Sweetie Bakery next to the pizza place I got dinner with the night before. Buying some donuts and a bagel with cream cheese I checked my email and hoped the rain would stop. The rain eased up and was only something between a mist and a drizzle when I headed back out.

Before Meyersdale, was one of the big things on the trail today: the 1908 foot long Salisbury Viaduct. So not to lose elevation, the railroad made a big bridge to cross over a valley. The bridge is narrow — one track wide — which makes it seem even higher than it is. It looks too be about 100 feet off the ground (but probably only 60 or so) and only about 10 feet wide.

The Casselman River

Today was going to be the “hardest” climb of the GAP trail. It goes over the Eastern Continental Divide and I could actually tell it was a little bit harder despite it being less than a one percent grade.  (Good thing I had Moby Dick to keep my mind off the steep climb…) It might have been the wet surface making it a bit slower too. The divide is marked on a tunnel with murals depicting the settlers going west and the industry of the area. It is the highest point on the great Allegheny passage at 2392 feet. Unlike the western Continental Divide, it really is all downhill from there.

The other big thing was the Big Savage Tunnel. It is 3294 feet long through Big Savage Mountain. I was concerned that the tunnel might be closed because on the map it says it closes in late November. I tried to call the GAP offices to check whether it was open since the website does not have the status but I got no answer until a couple days after I’d already gone through. The map also says that there is no easy way around the tunnel. It looked to me that there is a trail that headed over the the top of Big Savage Mountain which I could have either pushed my bicycle or rode my bicycle over and that would’ve gotten me to the other side. Riding through the tunnel was a little disorienting despite it being lighted. In the reduced light and the speed I was going I felt like I was floating.

After the Big Savage Tunnel it was a nice ride down to Cumberland. I could coast most of the way at about 15 miles an hour. There were another couple of tunnels — the Borden Tunnel and the Brush Tunnel each over 900 feet long. From Frostburg to Cumberland the path follows the Western Maryland Maryland Scenic Railroad. The trains start from Cumberland in the morning and I did not see any trains. The brochure says you can take your bicycle on the train. It could be an interesting way to cover those 32 miles from Cumberland.

Before reaching Cumberland, you cross the Mason Dixon Line and officially are in the Southern US. After visiting the the C&O Visitor center to get a map and see the exhibits on the canal, I rode around town a little. Both the Holiday Inn and the Fairfield Suites had hoses outside specifically to clean off bicycles. I used a hose to clean mine since the chip stone used on the GAP path had gotten up into my chain. Every turn of the cranks reminded me of having sand in my teeth. My poor chain and gears!

I also went to the local bike shop to check on conditions of the trail. The drug dealer in Pittsburgh told me the C&O trail could be muddy. My aunt also said she had heard the same. I was concerned that my tires were not wide enough plus they were not knobby. The salesman assured me that my tires were wide enough and that I wouldn’t need knobby tires. He said the trail gets more wet than muddy although there are puddles that can be deep and can be muddy. He said that if the puddle has steep sides just run through the bottom of the puddle don’t try to go up the sides is you could slip and fall.

I had dinner at the Baltimore Grill in the center of downtown on the pedestrian mall. I think my waitress was surprised at the speed I ate. Each time she came by to ask if everything was OK, I’d already eaten the whole plate. I must have been hungry because I even got dessert which was a little unusual. But I polished off the chocolate cake as well.

Start: Confluence, PA
End: Cumberland, MD
Today’s mileage: 69.7 miles
Total miles so far: 3238 miles
Average speed: 10.3 mph
Max speed: 22.8 mph
Travel time: (08:45 to 16:00) 7.25 hours
Total travel time: 394.5 hours
Weather: drizzle, overcast, 50-55 F

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