Day 1: 67.6 miles
After a late night of last-minute preparations and and an early morning making our way into DC, we met up at the Washington Monument to say goodbye to our host of supporters who were there to see us off. After the tears and pictures were over, we rode through a tunnel of friends and family towards Mile 0 of the C&O Canal Towpath, which would take us to Cumberland. We started off strong, but as the day went on we started to feel our lack of sleep from the night before. A stop in Harper’s Ferry, 2 miles from our campsite for the night, remedied this: looking for a pick-me-up in a batch of french fries, a generous stranger payed for our order. Full of fries and happy with a day without any mechanical complications (read: NO FLAT TIRES) we rode into camp to watch the sun set over the Potomac River. We ate our (second?) dinner and crashed into our sleeping bags for some well-deserved rest.
Day 2: 71.6 miles
This stretch of the C&O Canal had, a year ago, been Graham’s hardest and longest day of cycling. Seeking redemption, we started early, getting out of camp at about 8:30am. With a light drizzle keeping us slightly damp all day, we rode hard until Williamsport, where we recharged with about a gallon of Coke, pizza, and fries. We each need to eat about 5000-7000 calories per day in order to stay healthy, so mealtimes are interesting times for us: alternately shoveling food into our mouths and trying to talk to each other about how the day is going. As the day neared its end, nowhere near as hard as it had been for Graham a year before, we were happy to see our next campsite come into view and the rain let up.
Day 3: 69.2 miles
We really got into the swing of things as we neared Cumberland and the excitement of finishing the C&O mounted. Around noon, we hit the Paw Paw Tunnel, a mile long darkness with heavily pitted concrete that we ended up having to walk through. The bright side was that 1) it felt like we were in Moria and 2) we ate lunch on the other side. We finished close to 30 miles in the morning, but as the towpath got rockier and rockier, Graham’s tire (which was supposed to be impenetrable) ripped and he got a flat. However, we were quick to address the situation: we had a spare tire and tube ready and we made the switch in less than 10 minutes. We rode the rest of the way into Cumberland, and stopped at a bike shop (Cumberland Trail Connection) right off the trail to do some maintenance. They were nice enough to throw some cycling nutrition our way for free to support the ride. Late in the day we started our first 15 miles on the Great Allegheny Passage, part of a 25 mile climb up to the Eastern Continental Divide, but thankfully far less rocky than the C&O. We stayed the night at a campsite behind Trail’s Inn, the first site we shared with other people since the start of our trip. That night we talked about our excitement to meet more people, see more towns, and (hopefully) get in the physical routine of cycling 60-70 miles per day.