Sunday, October 11, 2015

C&O Canal Towpath

It had been two months since I'd driven the RV, we had a long weekend for Columbus Day, and the weather was gorgeous. Time for a field trip! I was driving the RV so I decided it would be a biking trip - I still don't have a bike rack for my SUV! Since I didn't make reservations anywhere I figured a day trip would have to do, I didn't really want to stay at a Wal-Mart. I loaded up the RV with just what I needed for the day and headed out to Hancock, MD to hopefully complete another section of the C&O Canal Towpath.

Last year, over Columbus Day I went to Williamsport, MD and rode a section of the towpath, but I could not remember where I'd turned around. Couldn't remember the milepost, a landmark, or even how far I'd ridden! I figured I'd prob gone 10 miles from Williamsport, so it looked like I could do a 30 mile round trip ride and complete the section from Williamsport to Hancock.

I headed out 66 to 81 to 70 and it was taking a long time. It was already almost noon and Hancock was still 20 miles away. I was ready to stop driving and start riding when I saw a sign on the highway for the C&O Canal Towpath: Four Locks and McCoy's Ferry. Good enough! I was heading there and I'd ride whatever section was there. Trying to be less OCD about riding the entire towpath and just enjoy a fabulous fall day!

I got off the highway and into the farmland of Western Maryland! At first the road was wide and nice! Double yellow line! I was following the signs and each road I turned onto got smaller and less well maintained! I had no idea where I was and I didn't even have a good map! I had my phone, only good as long as I have cell signal.

Soon I passed a the turn off to Four Locks and down the road I could have turned onto had a tunnel sign. That sign triggered the memory of where I'd turned around last year! I was at a snap NPS car camping campground that would be perfect for Roxy, but in order to get into it you had to go under the towpath and the tunnel was low, I wasn't sure if Roxy would make it. I was suddenly wondering where that campground was the perfect time to find it and see if Roxy would fit. Maybe on the way back I'd explore. There was no way to turn around and get back to the Four Locks Rd so I kept heading to McCoy's Ferry.

Eventually the road narrowed to one land, then a dirt road went off to the right with a NPS sign. I'd missed going on the dirt road so I went up & turned around in a school bus turn around. Then I had to make the obtuse turn to get on the road to McCoy's Ferry. I managed to do a 4 point turn without too much drama - scraped the running board & thought I was stuck in loose gravel but no lasting marks. Then I saw the tunnel sign. Clearance 10 ft 3inches. Hmmm... I'm pretty sure I'm under 10ft....

I pulled up to the tunnel and attempted to look and see if the AC unit on top would clear, but I couldn't see. So I decided to put the window down, turn the radio off, and drive slow. I figured I'd know real fast if I didn't fit. I didn't hear any scraping! I fit!


And when I emerged on the other side of the tunnel, I was in the campground I'd turned around at last year! The exact spot! Without even trying! And, I'd learned that Roxy can get in!

The campground had only a few people in it. If I'd been prepared I could have had a prime spot right on the Potomac! But, now I know for next time. I found place to park in the day use ares and got the generator going to heat lunch in the microwave. While I was waiting I pulled out the owner's manual to find out the official height of the RV - which I probably should have done *before* I went through the tunnel. The RV is 9 ft 6 inches. The tunnel was 10 ft 3 in so I had a mere 7 inches of clearance!

After lunch I took off down the towpath! It was already 1:00 and I still needed to drive home so I decided to only do 20 mile RT rather than going all the way to Hancock. I was about 4 miles down the trail when I saw a sign for the Western Maryland Rail Trail. I wasn't familiar with the rail trail so I made a mental note to look it up when I got home and continued. The crazy thing about the towpath is that it all looks the same, yet it's all different. Soon I'd reached the 120 mile marker and was going to turn around at the hike/bike in campsite right past it. Just before the campground there was a bridge that looked like it connected to another bike trail. I wondered if it was the rail trail? I rode down to the campsite, took a selfie with the sign so I won't forget where I turned around and went back to the bridge.


Sure enough the bridge lead to the Western Maryland Rail Trail! Turns out it's a paved bike trail that runs parallel to the towpath 22 miles from Ft. Frederick State Park to Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct. So this whole section you can do loops! Ride one way on the towpath and back on the rail trail! How cool! I decided to ride back to where the rail trail had joined the towpath. It was really nice because the rail trail is paved and smooth and I could go faster! (The towpath is not paved) The other fun thing about the rail trail was that is parallel to I70. The same I70 that goes over Vail Pass in CO. I tried to pretend I was riding up Vail Pass, but Western Maryland just isn't the same.

When I got back to the towpath I had 4 miles to go to get back to the campground! It was going to end up being close to 25 miles! I was glad I hadn't gone for 30 miles. Both bike paths are flat, which sounds like a good thing, but it means you have to pedal the whole time! No downhill breaks! My thighs were screaming!

Back at the van I quickly got ready to drive home, it was 4:00 and would take me at least 2 hours to get home. I did take the scenic route and not the interstate which made for an enjoyable evening driving through the mountains!



Monday, August 10, 2015

Pictures Slideshow

Just the pictures....for anyone who just wants to see pictures from the trip, click here!  Beware, there are over 600, but it shows almost everything.
Summer 2015

Saturday, August 8, 2015


After 6 weeks, 44 nights, 21 states, and 7600 miles driven, I am now home in Northern Virginia! I drove from home to the Pacific Ocean and back!

I didn't write a blog post yesterday because all I did was drive. I did finish listening to The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat. I ended up really enjoying it! The narrators did a great job capturing the characters personalities!

Another way I entertained myself while driving was to play the liscene plate game. I have a notepad shaped like the 48 contiguous states and it has the states outlined on it. I tape a page of it to the steering wheel (over the horn) and then just marked each state off when I see it. I'm good at geography so I can check off a state and barely look away from the road. Prior to leaving Sisters I'd seen every state (including Alaska and Hawaii) except Delaware. I decided to start over for the trip home. Between Sister's and home I saw every state except North Dakota, Vermont, and Rhode Island (again, including AK & HI!). I saw my first/only Delaware plate near Steeles Tavern, VA on I-81! I was about 150 miles away from not seeing a single DE plate! There were three vehicles from Delaware right together!

Tomorrow I'm going to work on updating my "States Visited" page and putting in links for all the State & National Parks. I'll also post a slide show/photo album with all my pics, but for now I need to go change the much laundry when you get home!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Shorter Drive

I had fewer miles planned today, a little break after a big driving day because the mileage didn't work out evenly! This allowed me to have a few hours to check out The Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, KS!

The Brown vs Board of Education site was very interesting! It was all about the end of segregation and equality for all. It was interesting to see the same themes as I'd noticed back in South Dakota with the Native People and we white folks marginalized them and took their land. We did similar things to the African Americans too. Makes me wonder what exactly our founding fathers meant by "all men are created equal". I'm glad for the folks who fought for civil rights!

It was noon before I left Topeka so I was glad I only had about 200 more miles to drive! I'd planned to stop at Graham Caves State Park, about 80 miles west of St. Louis. There weren't many camping options until well after St. Louis and I didn't want to do a Wal-Mart in St. Louis. (Remember the Griswalds, they got their hubcabs lifted in St. Louis! LOL!)

I arrived at Graham Caves a little after 4 and went to the campground. The first thing I noticed was that the campground was really far from the rest of the park and despite it seeming like Missouri is flat from the highway, in the park there were huge steep hills (steeper than Vail Pass!) so biking would have been hard. The next thing I noticed was that the campground was empty. There was a camp host and one other site occupied. I didn't like the way that felt so decided to check out the rest of the park then head to the commercial campground that was on the road in.

The rest of the park was just as empty as the campground and there wasn't much to see. There was a trail that went to the cave, but I decided not to hike it. I think it was just a cave to look at, not to go in.

I drove out and got a site a the Kamp Kan-Do Kampground. The misuse of the K rather than the C almost made me look elsewhere, but I didn't. It's an odd little campground, more seasonal residents than folks passing through but it's safe and seems quiet so it will do just fine for one night!

I ate my "long underwear" baked potato was very good! The long johns worked just as good as foil!


Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Today started here:


Loveland Pass, almost 12,000 feet.

And ended here:


Salina, KS - this view is what most of Kansas looks like!

All I did today was drive! I chose to drive over Loveland Pass rather than take I70 through the Eisenhower Tunnel because I wanted to see more of Colorado before I hit Kansas! It was 6 miles up with 3000 feet of elevation gain, and 4 miles down, although once I got on 70 I was still going down for probably 15-20 more miles.

Once I got to Denver I was past the mountains and the flat farm county started. The eastern half of Colorado is exceptionally boring, but once you get into Kansas the scenery improves a bit. It's still flat and open with some rolling hills but it's more farms and there are even some trees!

I actually don't mind Kansas much, I think it's better than Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana! The first time I drove through Kansas I thought it was very remote and that there was nothing here, now after having been places where there is actually nothing Kansas seems very populated! There's fuel and resteraunts and stuff at almost every exit!

The big thing today was keeping myself entertained while I drove! I'm listening to another book, The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore. It's a good light read, I still don't really like listening vs reading, but it does help the miles go by. I can only listen to the book for a few hours at a time and today I finally let myself listen to Pandora. I have a "favorite bands" channel that I've created and I love it, but it uses data, I'm not sure how much, I hope it's not much because I really enjoyed listening to Pandora today!

I was going to stay at the Wal-Mart in Salina but I drove down there - it was 4 miles off route - and it didn't look good, looked noisy and at 6:00pm there weren't any other RVs there, so I drove back to 70 and went to the KOA. I have a nice site with electricity and cable! I've never hooked up to cable, I have a very short coax cord that usually doesn't reach, but here it does! I haven't watched TV since I left home so it was exciting to watch Modern Family over dinner and Big Bang Theory while I'm blogging! I also met some nice folks from Louisana parked next to me. And, I cooked my baked potato so it would be ready when I'm ready for dinner tomorrow. The directions yo cook a baked potato in my convection oven were to use the "compucook" feature and then wrap the potato in foil for 15 minutes. I don't have any foil, but I figured it needed to insulated and keep the heat in while it finishes cooking, so I wrapped it in my long's hoping it works!


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Vail Pass

Today I was taking the day off! No driving! Well, not much driving. Despite this area having fabulous bike trails I had some things to do that involved driving!

Before I ran errands I was going to attempt to ride up to Vail Pass. Yesterday I drove over Vail Pass, there's a bike path that goes right down the median of I-70 and you can ride your bike all the way up from Frisco! When we were here 2 years ago Mom brought Dad and I up and we rode down (this was before I had a bike of my own so I was riding her beach cruiser, I wouldn't have made it up if I'd tried!). Now I was here by myself and if I wanted to ride down, I had to ride up! It was about 15 miles(one way) from the campground with about 1500 feet of elevation gain (from 9,000 ft to 10,500 ft!). The path is well graded but it is still a lot of uphill no while we've been at 3,000-6,000 feet off and on for the last few weeks, it's different from being at 9000+ feet!

The ride up Tenmile Canyon between Frisco and Copper Mountain Ski Resort wasn't so bad! It was a steady easy grade and it even leveled out close to the ski area so I got a break! I remember this being my favorite part to ride down last time, the gentler grade is easier both up and down. The wind however was making things hard! It was a headwind and peddling into it, going up, was a challenge!

I took a break for a snack after I'd gone through the ski area, just before the trail went up to the pass. While I was stopped a two guys came up, both over 50 and one was wearing an Ironman jersey, and they were asking some folks who just came down about the wind, thinking it might not be worth it to ride up today because it was so windy. I guess I wasn't the only one fighting it! We all pressed on however! I assume the guys made it to the top, I didn't see them again!

As I got higher the views just got better and better! These mountains are huge! The area around the trail after Copper Mountain is an alpine meadow and the wildflowers were all in bloom! More flowers that I saw in all of Oregon! I enjoyed seeing the things we did this whole trip, but my ride up to Vail Pass this morning might just be my favorite thing I did! Colorado is amazing! And so much closer!


I made it until the last mile before it was just too much to continue! I think it was a combination of the wind, the elevation and the steepness. I knew I was close to the top though, so I walked! There were a few spots where even walking was tough with the wind!

At the top I had a snack and took in the view before heading down! It had taken me 2 hours and 45 minutes to get to the top, took me and hour and fifteen minutes to get back to the campground! (That time includes stop time, I didn't stop at all on the way down).

It was almost 1:00 when I got back to the campground. I got lunch and did a few things at the RV, then went into town to get fuel, buy some more underwear so I didn't have to do laundry, picked up a few things at the grocery, and went to the town dump station.

After my errands I took the bike out again. This time I rode the trails closer into town. I rode to the Frisco Marina and got the Lakeside trail out to the dam. This route took me past what I'd thought was the best campground in town, but I realized it it's not really! The campground I'm at, Pine Cove, is about 2 miles from Frisco, it's not really on the bike path, but it's close. Heaton Bay, which is on the bike path, is at least 4 miles from Frisco and 4 miles from Dillon! I'd wanted to ride at least 10 more miles to give myself another 40 mile day, but then I started thinking I might be able to go 20 more miles have a 50 mile day. The riding seemed easy and I was worried that this was because I had a tailwind and didn't know it, so ended up turning around about 2/3 of the way across the dame after almost 8 miles. Turns out the path was just easier, it was just as easy coming back! I did get in 15 miles, making it 45 for the day which is still a personal best!

When I got back I fired up the generator to fix dinner & charge the batteries got a shower and settled in to enjoy the evening. The weather today was perfect. Chilly overnight (I got out the sleeping bag!) but not frigid, warmed to the mid-70 but with the breeze it was cool!


Monday, August 3, 2015

Arches National Park

I'd wanted to get an early start on my morning in Arches so I wasn't too disappointed when I woke up at 4 and couldn't get back to sleep, then the fridge cut off around 4:30 and I was awake for good! One nice thing about sleeping in a parking lot is you can leave whenever you want without worrying about disturbing anyone! I didn't want to drive into Arches in the dark so I got all ready to go and waited until almost 6 to leave.

The sun was just coming up as I was entering the park! It was a nice time to be there! I made it to the Delicate Arch Parking Area and was hiking by 6:45! I was not the first person to the trailhead either! This is a very popular hike!

It was only three miles to the arch and the trail went through all the desert highlights! It went across sand, open rock, even rock ledges before we finally came out at the arch! It was amazing! It was so big! There were only a few people there and I was able to get several pictures without any random strangers!


It was 7:40 when I was at the arch and on the way back I was like a salmon swimming upstream! There was a constant parade of people coming up and I was the only one coming down! I was back in the parking lot at 8:15 ready to explore the rest of the park.

I went to see the Arch Overlook, where you can view delicate arch without hiking. It was a mile away but it looked so tiny! And you could see all the people on the rock looking at it! So many people had gotten there, just since I'd left!

Next I went out to the Devil's Garden area. That area looked really neat, but it was a 7 mile hike to see it all so I only walked about a mile to landscape arch then turned around.


After that I drove out to the windows area of the park. This is where the crowds caught up with me! I hadn't had any trouble with parking until I got to Windows, there was no place to park! I found an only slightly illegal place to pull off and walked back to a view.

Since the park was filling up and I still needed to drive 250 miles today I headed down the hill to the visitor center to get my passport stamped and head up the road.

I-70 through Colorado is the most scenic most amazing section of interstate and I was very excited to get there! But first I had about 70 miles of Utah desert. Between Moab and Fruita, CO there is nothing but sagebrush. You can see the big mesas in the distance and at one point I saw what looked like the Devil's Garden area of Arches, but I'm not sure.

Colorado was just as lovely as I'd hoped! There was construction through Glenwood Canyon and it rained a bit but Vail Pass was spectacular! I wonder if that ever gets old?

I got to Frisco at 4:30 and found a campsite - there weren't any sites in my first choice campground, Heaton Bay - it's got electric hook ups AND easy bike path acess, but I got a nice site by the water in the "parking lot" campground. After I parked I hopped on my bike and rode into Frisco for dinner! I'd been planning to get a pizza from The Hot Tomato in Fruita, but they aren't open on Mondays! I went to Peppino's in Frisco and it was very good!

I love this area because it's got great mountains, tons of National Forest Service campgrounds, and a large system of paved bike paths. It was here two years ago where I got re-introduced to biking!