We woke up to fog and a sudden drop in temperature. The last couple mornings were around the 60s F; this morning was 42F. I was prepared for the colder weather, but I think it took some of us by surprise.
I was a little concerned about my endurance. This would be the first time I would ride a 40+-mile ride three days in a row. Would I be able to keep up? I did a mental check– I was feeling good, no more tired than usual. My legs were a little stiff, but not sore. My neck, lower back, and butt felt just fine. Well then, I thought, I’m in good enough shape to ride today.
The fog burned off in the morning. We tidied the house, those who needed coffee had some (but it was apparently too weak), and we got our stuff together to head back on the trail.
The air was crisp and cool. It definitely felt like fall now, and it felt great to be outside. I soon warmed up, and began to shed some layers. Oops– still chilly. I kept putting on and taking off layers, unable to get to the right temperature.
Our first major landmark of the day was the Salisbury Viaduct. It was an impressive structure, and the view of the sky and the landscape was breathtaking. I marveled at the sight, but then vertigo hit me. No no no, I thought, stop looking around, look straight ahead and keep pedaling! 1,908 feet later, I was relieved to be on solid ground again.
Meyersdale, PA was our lunch stop. On a recommendation, we coasted downhill to the GI Dayroom diner. The waitress asked Steve if he wanted sausage gravy on his homefries. He replied, “I don’t know how to answer that question.” He didn’t, but the sausage gravy was evidently delicious otherwise.
For every downhill, there’s an uphill, and that was a punishing post-lunch uphill back to the trail. We took another break at the historical society, where we played with model trains and saw an exhibit about the town. When we came out of the building, we met Mr. Ebike, who asked us whether we were planning on taking the C&O back to DC or going an alternate route. He had heard rumors of riders getting ticketed, he said. We told him we were most likely sticking to the trail.
Back on the GAP, we kept climbing the steady incline until we reached the highest point of the trail, on the Eastern Continental Divide. We chatted with a couple of riders going towards Pittsburgh. They told us that it was downhill from here, and it was time to coast into Cumberland!
Big Savage Tunnel was another impressive sight. We rode into the darkness until the last few yards, two bright headlights came charging towards us. Was it a train? Nope– just a Port-A-Potty truck. Yikes!
I want to say a bit about how our group rides together. We seemed to develop our own rhythms of how fast or slow we rode, sometimes pairing up with others and chatting while riding, sometimes riding alone. Nathan and Jane were definitely the fastest, but Steve could easily keep up. David was the most consistent rider, keeping a steady pace throughout the entire trip. Thinking that he was slow, he would sometimes start ahead of us, and sometimes we would catch up to him– but sometimes he would continue to stay far in front.
I tend to be a middle-of-the-pack rider. I’m not fast. I don’t like being at the end, either. I often pacelined (as much as it is possible on a gravel path) behind another person. I usually started out slow after meals so that I wouldn’t get heartburn, but once I finally figured out how to control it (no large meals!), I was able to get into a groove. I practically sprinted the last fifteen miles to Cumberland.
We regrouped at (one of) the train tracks in the city, then headed to the hotel. We celebrated our finish of the GAP Trail at a nice Italian restaurant. We did it!
But what lies in store for us tomorrow? Worried about provisions, we did an evening grocery store run and bought food, water, and toilet paper. That night, we went to the hotel bar and made enough peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to feed an army. We were prepared to face whatever came our way.