Tuesday, July 17, 2012

D.C. to South Bend, Indiana: Part 1

Some roads lead to places unexpected. Sometimes, you have the faith to follow that inner voice that is telling you to do something or go somewhere, only to find that where you end up, is not where you thought you were headed. That is a journey and that is not only what I have learned to embrace, but what I look forward to. 

"Where are you riding to?" That is the question I heard most often. I guess it was obvious from the amount of stuff I was carrying on my bike that it wasn't a day ride. I should have said South Bend, Indiana since that is where I ended up instead of Buchanan, Michigan where I told everyone. But then maybe the conversations would of been shorter and I would have missed out on getting to know so many people, albeit briefly, along this amazing trip. After all, the people I met, seeing my family and finding peace in Ann Arbor,  truly was the best part. 

I said Buchanan because that is where the 6th Motocross race of the 12 race series is held. Race #5 was in Mechanicsville, Maryland. Our hotels. However, were in Waldorf, Maryland and South Bend, Indiana. I rode between those two points. Had I rode the direct route between the two, the distance would have been around 700 miles. I took the more scenic (and flat) route by way of the C&O towpath and The Great Allegheny Passage, which follow winding rivers)  as well as heading a bit north to Lansing, Michigan by way of Jackson, making my total mileage 920. I was out a total of 19 days but only rode 17. That makes an average of about 55 miles a day. I did a couple of shorter days due to the location of some campsites (and a couple of breweries :) Most days, I rode between 60 and 65 miles, which wasn't bad considering the weight of my bike (103 pounds) and the heat. Ah yes, the heat!!! I managed to pick the two hottest weeks of not only the year, but apparently the last 100 or so years. Yes, record temperatures. 

I seem to do well with the heat. I hate being cold, like REALLY hate being cold. Admittedly, it is hard to do lots of miles in the heat and it is preferable to have cooler temperatures while you are running and riding, but you don't do that all day and night, so I enjoyed the warmer weather but this was a bit much for even me. I will say that riding in it was definitely easier than running in it! Honestly, I am not sure I could have ran in it. Riding was easier because you actually create your own breeze which really helps, the problem is stopping. There were a few days where the temperature was in the  low 100's with a heat index in the 110's I would be ok while riding but when I would stop, the heat would envelop you and feel like it was choking you. I definitely battled dehydration and the wonderful headaches they bring and places where there was no shade, it was tough to escape the stifling heat in any way other than to just keep peddling until I was  done for the day.

But like anything, the pain or discomfort you feel is temporary, luckily. Instead, I am left with all of the wonderful, amazing memories of my ride. I have so many I'm not sure where to begin or which to choose to write about here. So, I guess I'll just let 'er rip. 

I started 20 miles south of Washington DC. I was so excited to see our nation's capital! I had been there on a family vacation when I was 14. But, like most teenagers, I was too into music and chicks to care about monuments to presidents. This time was different. I am still into chicks and music :), but also VERY into american history!! There is no better way to see DC than on a bike! Except when you want to go up the steps to the Jefferson Memorial and realize that leaving ALL your belongings for the next 3 weeks, sitting alone, out of sight,  while you go read plaques, is not a good idea. 

I found a way to take my bike up (elevator) into both memorials and aside from security at the Lincoln memorial telling me that I couldn't have my bike up there, I pretty much got to see everything I wanted. The only thing I wasn't able to see was the Smithsonian. There was nowhere to put my bike. I was bummed, but rationalized it by realizing there was no way I would be able to see everything I wanted to, in an afternoon. I considered getting a room and staying for a day, but opted not to when a) I saw the prices of rooms in the area and b) remembered how many miles I had ahead of me and accepted the fact that I had no idea how this whole thing was gonna go and better make sure that I get to South Bend on time. 

DayOne entry, Jun 17, 2012

Georgetown is incredible! Is everybody beautiful in this town? Seriously! It was amazing riding my bike around the Capital. It was easier than running.

So, I saw all I could see and started on the C&O Towpath. I was so excited to be on this trail. It was as beautiful as I had imagined and there was a ton of little signs citing historical information that no matter how hard I try, I can never ride or run past and have to stop, read and take a picture of. 

This is easier to do when running. It is harder when riding, as is taking pictures. I take a picture when something special catches my eye (obviously). When composition or contrast is interesting I want to take a picture! When you are riding, by the time you stop, the picture has completely changed. It's different than running. So, I'd stop and either compromise and shoot the new perspective, ride back (annoying) or just forget the shot. This actually bummed me out a bit. Pictures are how I remember my trips. I play them as slideshows and relive so many great places. I wonder how many gaps I have allowed due to the faster pace? Oh well, no matter, my memory is so bad, I'll never know the difference :)

I was excited to spend my first night on the Towpath. I was looking forward to camping and knew of all the campsites along the 330 miles of trail. I rolled up on the first one that was about 10 miles into the trail and saw a sign saying that it was by reservation only and for groups of Boy Scouts or something. I called the number on the sign but got no answer. There was nobody at any of the sights and it was getting dark. The next campground was about 10 miles up so I really had no choice. I chose a sight towards the back, pitched my tent and settled in for the night. 

Or, tried to settle in. Actually, there was nothing settling about my first night camping, alone, with over 800 (planned) miles ahead of me with an admittedly semi irrational fear of bears, made more rational by the location of this campsite, directly adjacent to an island named "Bear Island". 


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