An Epic Ride: Part 6- Leesburg

Fallen tree on the C&O Trail.

Downed tree on the trail. Photo by Jane


Day 6
Shepherdstown, WV to Leesburg, VA
45.31 miles
314.43 miles from start

When I woke up, I pulled the curtains aside and looked out the window. It was raining. Again.

There was nothing to do but to get ready to ride. I got dressed, gathered my bike stuff together, and headed out to the lobby. The Cycling for STEM folks were in the breakfast area, also preparing for the day.

David, Steve, and I rode to meet Jane and Nathan at Mellow Moods Cafe in Shepherdstown for breakfast. It was a cozy spot, complete with a sleeping cat on a bench. A yoga studio was in the other room. A young woman played her ukulele at her table, and told a friend she was learning Beatles songs. I had tea and rice porridge for breakfast.

We lingered for a while. I think it was here where David spoke of the rain as a full-on sensory experience, making him feel alive and in the moment. It was a positive way to think about the day.

There was no point in postponing the inevitable. We had to get out there, so back out in the rain we went.

From the cafe, the road goes downhill to the trail. At some point, you go back onto the sidewalk and then down the ramp. David started out ahead of us, as usual, so the four of us rode together. I led the way, coasting down the hill. Knowing that I had to eventually mount the sidewalk, I attempted to do so near Shepherd University, on a ramp to a driveway. Unfortunately, there was a gap between the ramp and the road. My wheel got caught in it, and I slid and fell hard on the pavement on my right side.

I forced myself to push up to sit. I checked out my side. My ribs did not appear to be broken. My right forearm hurt, but I could bend my elbow and make a fist, so that seemed okay. I looked down at my right leg– my tights were ripped at the knee, and I was bleeding.

Nathan, Jane, and Steve showed up. Nathan gave me a hand and helped me up. I could put weight on my right leg, so that was all right. But I was in pain. The nearest pharmacy was a couple miles away, up the hill. Jane went to get antiseptic and bandages, as none of us was carrying any. The three of us went to stay out of the rain by standing under the eaves of one of the college buildings.

I felt a mixture of pain, nausea, and disgust. I felt utterly stupid for falling and felt like I should have known better– I should have stopped at the trail ramp instead of trying to mount the sidewalk here! I felt sick to my stomach and willed myself not to throw up. Jane soon arrived from the pharmacy, and applied the antiseptic and bandages to my knee. I must have been in shock, because I did not feel a thing.

Going down the ramp, I walked my bike, which appeared to be okay except that my bell had broken off. Once at the trail, I took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and mounted the saddle. My confidence was completely shaken and I pedaled slowly for a long while. It hurt, but not so much that I couldn’t ride at all. I gritted my teeth and tried not to freak out.

Harper's Ferry
We caught up with David at Harpers Ferry. David wanted to look around the town, as he had never been. My leg hurt if I walked around– it felt better to be on the bike, strangely enough. Steve accompanied David on his tour, while Jane, Nathan, and I rode on to Brunswick, to a favorite randonneuring coffee stop.

Beans in the Belfry, Brunswick
Coffeeneuring Stop #3
Beans in the Belfry
Brunswick, Maryland
Friday, October 11, 2013 (using the furlough rule)
Rooibos tea with lunch (and pumpkin pie)
19.9 miles from Comfort Inn, Shepherdstown, WV

I loved Beans in the Belfry. I could have stayed there all afternoon. It was a warm, inviting space.

David and Steve caught up with us there. I had already finished my soup-and-sandwich lunch, but I figured I might as well keep eating while they were having lunch, so I had a piece of pumpkin pie.

The rain, once again, fell steadily throughout the entire day. The hardest part was always leaving a nice, warm, dry place to ride into the cold and wet. But we kept going out there.

For Jane, Nathan, and I, we were heading back into the familiar territory. We stopped by the lockhouse we stayed in this past summer, and waxed nostalgic with our friends about our stay there.

Monocacy Aqueduct
The Monocacy Aqueduct remains one of my favorites (if one could have a favorite aqueduct) on the trail. Something about the construction fascinates me. As we approached, we thought we heard gunshots in the distance. It might have actually been trees breaking. We watched the muddy river rush through, carrying fallen trees. (Compare the water height with this picture, taken in the summer.)

After days of not seeing anyone on the trail, we saw a jogger near mile 40. We waved hello, and he said something about sticking it to the Tea Party. We stopped to talk with him for a while. It turns out that he was a retired federal employee. He took our picture before we rode on.

When we were planning this trip several months ago, our original route for this part was to stay at Harpers Ferry, and then go home to DC. This would have been over 70 miles for the last leg of the trip, of which the final miles would have been the rockiest. Looking back on it now, I think we could have done it without any problems, but while we were planning it, we had thought that it might have been difficult riding to make the last stage the longest. We decided to break it up into two days, staying overnight in Leesburg, VA.

Ferry with cars and bicyclist.

White’s Ferry. Photo by Jane.


We took White’s Ferry, which crosses the Potomac River from Maryland to Virginia. By this time, it was dark. Our plan was to ride on the shoulder of Route 15 to the hotel, but the highway was undergoing renovation, so the shoulder was grooved and had loose gravel, and road itself had temporary dots instead of lines. It was impossible to ride the shoulder. I chose to ride on the right side of the paved road with my lights on, wearing my reflective rainjacket.

I admit it was a reckless thing to do, and very dangerous. The drivers seemed to have seen me just fine and gave me wide berth. The rest of the group wisely walked their bikes to the intersecting road several miles down. I got to the road and waited for them, putting up with catcalls from cars in the meantime.

We managed to ride/walk the rest of the way on smaller roads to the hotel. We checked in, hosed off our bikes, and carried them up the stairs to our rooms.

Once again, we did delivery (Chinese and Thai food this time), beer, and laundry that night. While Steve was on the phone with the restaurant, I peeled off my bandage to apply a new one. I sprayed the antiseptic on, but this time it stung like hell. Involuntarily, I let fly a string of curse words so loud everyone stopped to look at me. sorry!

When the food came, I spilled hot soup all over me, which caused me to curse all over again. I did manage to get some food in me instead of on me, though.

One day closer to home. I took an ibuprofen and tried to get some sleep.

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2 thoughts on “An Epic Ride: Part 6- Leesburg

  1. We didn’t just look at you. The entire restaurant staff on the other end of the phone thought there was a wild orgy going on at the Days Inn! 😉 Hope your knee is healing well.

    • Thank goodness the delivery people didn’t say anything when they came to our hotel room! 🙂 I still have a little scab on my knee right now, but otherwise it’s much better.

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