Blogger: Dorothy Blair
When eight riders rolled out of our UCC homeless shelter cots at 7:30am, cell-phone weather geeks were already informing other sleep-blurry biker pals that our frigid, rainy Sunday bike-ride was going to have a second life in Maryland. But isn’t Hagerstown, Maryland supposed to be warmer that Pennsylvania? Not this time.
We had made good use of the shelter washer and dryers the night before, so we did have dry clothes and a cozy breakfast with Bill, our UU chef, and Bob, patient manager of the shelter. Unfortunately all that coziness ended when we stepped outside to great the 48 degree rain. Beyond rain, construction on the C&O Canal towpath had forced us to move our route eastward. In Maryland this means more hills, more very big hills. We debated the 400ft rise in one mile hill, but had to swallow the alternative route that Janet labored over. But one destination remained sacred: lunch at the Potomac Inn in Brunswick, just off the tow-path.
Chains oiled and paniers attached, the State College bikers were on the road by 9am. Rain stung our faces and our foreheads; jackets and socks were soon soggy. But relentless hills and a lush landscape diverted our attention from toes growing colder by the hour . Beautiful country east of Antietam rolled past – The Antietam Ceek rushed by near flood-stage. Deep rivulets formed roadside as farm fields drained. As a reward for our biggest hill, we biked down through tiny Burkittesville, a charming colonial hamlet with cobbled streets and exquisitely maintained buildings. The weather did take its toll, as one of our bikers lost feeling in their feet and had to ride in the sag-wagon for an hour.
When you are cold, you bike quickly. So despite 30 miles of sharp hills, we rode into Brunswick at 12:30pm for authentic Syrian babba ganouj, falafel and swarma platters. Bliss! We made rain puddles on the floor, but our hosts were handy with mops. Bloated, I had trouble with the extremely sharp hill we had to navigate to get out of town.
At this point we split into two groups of four to accommodate the mudrunners who couldn’t bear not to ride on the towpath, and the rest of us who would rather abandon ourselves to the roller-coaster hills than set our tires in the squishy towpath mud. Everyone was happy, particularly Marali, who identified cat berries, and Jason, whose wish that the sun would shine on the towpath was prophetic. Noah’s tire went flat 1 mile from our destination, and we were happy to have Tom Casey ridding sag bring the toolkit within seconds.
By 4pm we arrived at Am Kolel, the Jewish Retreat Centre in Poolesville that is our very comfortable resting place tonight. We met the six Philadelphia area riders, including 4 clergy – a rabbi, a Mennonite minister, a youth pastor and a UU minister. Dinner was delicious and provided by the Watershed Café, a local farm to table restaurant – chef and owner Ben Ritter. Janet loved the vegan chili and I loved the rich coffee ice cream. After dinner Joyce Breiner and other green committee/community solar/agriculture conservation district people described their great triumphs and interesting dilemmas.
As Dean expressed at dinner, how incredible it has been that despite such stressful conditions, how good humored and happy we have been today. Not a grump among us. We take great delight in something that we would ordinarily take for granted (like warm, dry feet).
words of the day: Noah—big Marali — catberries Casey — cold Dean —incredible Dorothy — abandon Ben —water Janet—mud-runner Jason—prophecy