Number Thirty One: Maryland

Doré is totally convinced that I plan activities for the expressed purpose of terrifying her. We came to ride a small piece of the Great Alleghany Trail. In its entirety, it goes from Pittsburg to Washington more or less. This is one of the most highly rated trails on the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and listed in its Hall of Fame.

We were riding near Hagerstown in Maryland. In this stretch, the Great Alleghany is also known as the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath Trail. Of course, the towpath is next to the defunct canal and the other side is a steep bank down to the Potomac River. The day we were riding it, the crushed limestone was soft from rain, interspersed with patches of loose gravel, mud, standing water, walnuts, and wet leaves. You don’t even want to know how annoyed the stoker gets when she is dumped in mud, gravel, or down the bank into the river. I’m doing my best not to find out but, for three and a half hours, she did not believe that.

Our experience was further enhanced by a detour around a construction site. The construction closed a section of the trail that may have been 50 level yards across a dam or levee or spillway or some such; the detour was about two miles on busy streets with 6% grades ending with climbing down into the canal and up the other side, with a narrow, rail-less bridge over the water. Two construction workers got Doré up and down the banks on the way out. Two fellow travelers, Mike and Isaac, who were biking from the Pennsylvania border to Washington and looking for someone to repair a bent wheel, helped on the way back. Otherwise, we might still be there.

We did manage 30.36 miles at about 8.5 mph.

I assumed that if we could manage 30 miles one day, we could manage 20 the next on the same trail without the detour. Doré assumed differently.

The second day we managed 21.18 at about 12.5 mph on a different trail of Doré’s choosing. The Western Maryland Rail Trail was a remarkable contrast. The surface was asphalt; it wasn’t on the edge of a river; and it didn’t have any detours. (While it paralleled the C & O Canal towpath trail, it wasn’t the section we had just ridden.)

And it is a rather remarkable transportation corridor. First there was the River. Then there was the canal towpath trail. Then the canal. Then an active rail line. Then the converted Western Maryland Rail Trail. Then Interstate 70.

Here I-70 more or less follows the route of the National Road; in Hagerstown, it is variously named the Dual Highway, the National Pike, and the Baltimore Pike. The plan was to have a paved road from Baltimore to St. Louis. It didn’t quite make it to St. Louis but the rest was built in the early nineteenth century. For some reason, the Maryland section was privately funded. Maybe the confusing part is why the rest of it wasn’t privately funded.

IMG_3694 (2)
Route of the National Road

I’m still trying to catch up; I know I’ve skipped 25 to 30.


One thought on “Number Thirty One: Maryland

  1. Hi guys, This was an very interesting one. We don’t have towpaths here in CT but I’m very familiar with them having spent time with siblings and family in the DC area, one of them overlooking the Potomac and the tow path which I have used many times. Stay warm! it’s starting to get cold out there. Sue


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