Things got a bit messy today. The mostly good weather of the first 2 days turned mostly bad, as we got rained on most of the afternoon.
After a relatively early start (8 a.m.), Jim rode another 25 miles out of the saddle before we found a bike shop in Hancock, MD, and got his seat post replaced. At that point we were thinking the challenges of the C&O were largely overblown, with just a few easily negotiated muddy spots. When we stopped for breakfast in the same town, it was sunny and mild. Leaving the restaurant a short time later, it was hazy and overcast, and the first drops of the day were hitting the sidewalk.
It rained a bit between Hancock and Williamsport, where construction detoured us into the center of town. Looking for a quick bite and water refills, we stopped at the Desert Rose Cafe, which I recognized from online posts about trail accommodations. Before long we saw the weather situation begin to deteriorate again, going from sunny to eerily dark as we sat. Alan, the guy behind the counter, suggested we hunker down there rather than risk getting caught in a storm. We insisted we’d be fine. Before we could get our bikes unlocked the storm was bearing down on us. We retreated to the safety of the cafe, which promptly lost power. Alan not only let us stay, he told us we could bring our bikes in out of the storm and then went across the street to heat up some red beans and rice for us. It was a heavy duty storm — one we would have been caught in if we had left just a minute earlier.
When the weather calmed down an hour or so later, we struck out again. The trail was a mess, with fresh mud puddles and branches scattered all along the route. The C&O was living up to its bad reputation. That’s how it stayed the rest of the way, except darker towards the end.
We pushed on through the rain and mud and darkness to get to a campground near the site of the Antietam battlefield. It was a $20-a-night campground, which I mistakenly assumed would include hot showers and maybe access to an electrical outlet. Turns out the luxury amenities totaled just two items: a picnic table and a fire pit. Not what we were hoping for after slogging to the end of an 80-mile ride in the dark. Jim and I agreed that pitching tents in the rain was not the best way to set ourselves up for our push to the finish. Instead, we backtracked 3 miles and checked into a hotel.
Once again we missed our chance to have a sit-down dinner, as the hotel restaurant was closing just as we rolled in. That was probably for the best– we were not a pretty sight when we arrived. Both of us were soaked and filthy. My shins had picked so much trail crud it looked like I was wearing knee socks.
We spent the rest of the evening eating Dominoes pizza and laundering our mud-caked clothes in the bathroom sink.
Miles for the day: 83; total, 277