The GAP - Day 4

After another hearty and delicious breakfast from the Levi Deal Mansion, we set off on the last part of our trip. The day started well enough, with part of it through the woods and shady. We saw another doe with two fawns pass across the trail in front of us. Most of it was only just uphill enough to be noticeable. We didn't really see any more farmland, but a large chunk of the ride passed through fields. And in the fields were these awful biting flies that swarmed us if we stopped or slowed down. They attacked while we were riding, though less so if we rode faster. It was terrible. These rotton things were even biting me through my clothing, and let me tell you, it's not exactly easy to ride a bike while flailing like a muppet (though I'm sure it was at least marginally entertaining for everyone else.) I will say, though, that biting flies are an excellent motivator to pedal faster. Though that early part of the trail was hot and sunny and full of biting insects, it passed remarkably quick, all things considered.

The turning point from where it stopped sucking and started being fun again came, appropriately, at the Continental Divide.

There's a little tunnel at the very top that the flies didn't go into, and we rested there for a little bit. There's an elevation chart that shows how much the GAP climbs and falls. Pretty amazing to see it mapped out like that.

Though the steepness of the trail never exceeds a 2% slope, we'd actually climbed from around 700-ish feet to a whopping 2392 above sea level. Pretty darn awesome! And very exciting looking at the next leg of our ride. In just 22 miles, the elevation drops from 2392 down to only 605, which was even lower than we'd started from. (Perryopolis isn't marked on this chart, but it's about halfway between Connellsville and West Newton. Anyhow, at that point, I was more than ready to go downhill.

We passed through that little tunnel, and on the other side the difference was incredible and instantly noticeable. We'd been averaging around 9 mph up until now, but suddenly going downhill we were doing around 14. Doesn't sound like it, but it's a BIG difference. All the tiredness and discomfort evaporated. We passed through the Big Savage Tunnel, an old rail tunnel constructed in 1911. It's just shy of 3300 feet long, and sparsely lighted (just enough to keep you from crashing into the walls -- between the lights it gets pitch black and let me tell you, it's really super freaky to be riding a bicycle when you're unable to see the ground you're riding on) and absolutley freezing cold. At the mouth of the tunnel, I could feel a bit of a chill wafting out from it, and by the time I was in its depths I had goosebumps and was shivering. The sock, being made of wool, was rather cozy.

The little row of lights in the tunnel are the electric lights in there. The one that's just slightly a different color at the bottom of the row? That's the daylight at the other end of the tunnel. This is a long tunnel. Just after leaving Big Savage Tunnel behind, the trail turns a bit and we came around a corner to this:

Pretty neat, huh? We continued along, scarcely pedalling, and then came upon this:

The Mason-Dixon Line. They'd laid a little brick section into the trail to clearly designate where Pennsylvania becomes Maryland. (In the above photo, the sock is in Pennsylvania. I was standing in Maryland to get the picture.) We rested there for a bit, took more pictures, and then got on our way.

The original plan called for stopping at Frostburg for lunch, but between the fact that we'd made such good time that morning along with the fact that there's a great big hill between the trail and the buildings of Frostburg that we really didn't feel like climbing, we decided that we could just push on through to our destination, Cumberland, MD.

The trail continued to slope downhill, we continued to make good time, and then we turned a bend and suddenly were beside an actual working railroad line.

This section of trail, while downhill, was not nearly as pleasant as the wooded section before it. This part was hot, and sunny, and rather dusty. We didn't pass any trains, which I was pretty relieved about. I like trains and all, but I wasn't eager to be that close to one. Especially as the path goes through another tunnel, Borden Tunnel, along with the train tracks. There are signs warning not to go into the tunnel if a train is passing through it, but it doesn't address the issue of what happens if a train goes into the tunnel while you're passing through it. In any case, it didn't happen.

We reached Cumberland a little past noon, and were greeted by this just outside the city.

She was right next to the trail, and evidently decided that we weren't worth the bother of interrupting her lunch for. We took some pictures of her and left her to it, in favor of pursuing our own lunch.

We ended up going to a Mexican place for lunch that was quite good. We celebrated the end of our trip with a pitcher of margaritas.

As it turns out, there's a lovely little yarn shop in Cumberland by the name of Millicent's Yarns and More. Because our rooms weren't available until after 3 and the shop closed at 5, there wasn't really the time for us to get checked in and cleaned up and back to the shop in time to browse before they closed for the evening, so we went beforehand.

I'd like to say a great big THANK YOU to the staff at Millicents. I came into their shop sweaty and grimy with trail dust (but with freshly washed hands -- can't fondle yarn with dirty hands, obviously) and probably smelling a little ripe, but they welcomed me in with smiles and warm greetings all around. They served up exactly the customer service that I like in a yarn shop: a hearty welcome greeting, an offer of assistance should I require help, and then being left alone to browse. They checked in with me periodically but mostly just left me to it. They have a wonderful selection of yarns that my own local yarn shop doesn't carry, and I had a very hard time narrowing down my decision.

Eventually I selected this yarn to come home with me:

This is Findley Dappled from Juniper Moon Farm, a luscious 50% merino wool / 50% silk laceweight yarn in the colorway Frogs Back. I picked it because (other than the silk content, lol) it has all the colors that remind me of the trail I'd just rode through. Brown and a mossy green for the trees, grey for the rocks, and just a little bit of blue peeping through every so often that reminded me of the sky and the river. It's almost 800 yards, so plenty for a large shawl. I'm thinking Omelet.

Anyhow. The sock is back home now (obviously) and in keeping with my character I have yet to knit up its mate. I've got some time until Pittsburgh gets cold enough for me to be wearing wool socks anyway, so I might put it off for a bit. Maybe take it on a trip of its own so that I've got a pair of travelling socks.

This one did such interesting things, why shouldn't the other?