4th July Bike Tour

Day 1: Washington DC to Calico Rocks camp area, Maryland – 43 miles

Finding myself having a few days free in a row, I decided to make the most of the opportunity and head out for a little adventure. I strapped the tent to the back of my bike and pedalled out of Washington DC into the evening sunshine.

Heading W into the evening sun, beautiful but hot

Heading W into the evening sun, beautiful but hot

I didn’t end up departing until 4pm – work to do, then it took a while to get ready, hey it’s been a long time since I’ve been bike camping! – which left me about four and a half hours to reach camp. The light was gorgeous, the roads were relatively empty as people were getting in place for the fireworks, but damn, it was hot as hell out there. I had planned to do the climb up and down Sugarloaf Mountain en route, but didn’t have the time on this occasion.

Bike tour 002

Sugarloaf Mountain

Bike tour 018

Bike tour 003

This area is rich in history

Bike tour 004

Long evening shadows

The C & O Canal is 185 mile National Park stretching from Washington DC to Cumberland, West Virginia, running along the Potomac River. There are camp areas every 8 – 10 miles so I aimed for Calico Rocks camping area, near to Point of Rocks, for my overnight stop.

Bike tour 005

Riding along the C & O canal. Feeling the heat but happy to have arrived at camp

All I could think about in those final few miles was the prospect of cold, fresh water. With bottles almost depleted, it would have been a thirsty night if the well was dry. It took many pumps to draw up the first water, as the old-fashioned hand pump creaked, groaned and gurgled into life. There’s nothing quite like a drink of cool, fresh water when you’re baking hot and dehydrated.

Bike tour 006

Water pump at Calico Rocks camp area, C & O canal

The sultry temps in the high 80s (around 30 degrees C) persisted well into the evening. The mosquitoes had a plentiful 4th July feast. Sleep was not easy until it cooled off, even after I left the flysheet off in a bid to increase the airflow.

Bike tour 008

Home, sweet home

Day 2: Return to Washington DC via Purcellville, Virginia and the W&OD trail – 75 miles

My original plan was to stay out for another night and head down to Shenandoah National Park, but with another hot, hot day in prospect I decided against a second oppressive night in the tent. Plan B was to ride south for 30 miles through the Virginian countryside, pick up the W & OD trail and then follow it 45 miles to home.

Bike tour 009

Early morning day 2 – pondering my strategy to cope with the onslaught of mosquitos once I exit the tent

Leaving camp I crossed from Maryland over the Potomac river into Virginia by the Point of Rocks bridge. Immediately afterwards I turned off onto quiet side roads, through rolling farmland along the base of big hills. This was the most enjoyable and scenic stretch of the tour.

Bike tour 013

Mountain Road, Virginia, about 30 miles North of Shenandoah National Park

Bike tour 014

Old corn dryer, Mountain Road, Virginia and yup, starting to get damn hot

There were plenty of other cyclists about at the start (or end) of the W & OD trail at Purcellville. I stopped to top up my water bottles and take a break from the sun.

Bike tour 015

The Town of Purcellville and the start of the W&OD trail back to Washington DC

Bike tour 016

On the W&OD trail

I was really struggling with the heat by the early afternoon; the hottest part of the day and no shade to hide. I rode at a leisurely pace, within myself, to ensure I’d make it home. Big grin on my face of course, I was thoroughly enjoying being out bike touring again.

Bike tour 017

Keep on pedalling

Bike tour 019

One of the old rail cars that would have served this route

Bike tour 021

A family of deer on the trail (blurry photo taken whilst on the move)

Half the fun of these sorts of trips is the return and being able to feast on whatever you’ve spent the past few hours dreaming about. A cold beer and pizza on this occasion!

Bike tour 022

Reward for all the effort

7 thoughts on “4th July Bike Tour

  1. echo

    What a great post!! The pictures were so pretty! I’ve been wanting to get out and do mini-tours (in hopes of working up to bigger tours), so I enjoyed reading this post. Sorry to hear about those pesky mosquitos! Even though I’ve only done shorter trips, I could totally relate to when you said “Half the fun of these sorts of trips is the return and being able to feast on whatever you’ve spent the past few hours dreaming about”

    So true!!

    Reply
  2. Markus

    Very nice pictures and typical BC tales 🙂 can´t wait the next 3 weeks, then i have one week off and can do something similar. cykling the “vildmarksvägen” in sweden. unfortunally there´s no pizza arround here. i guess i have to fill this vacuum with another beer hehehe

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Friday 13th adventure | ben.collins.outdoors

  4. Pingback: Evolution of a lightweight bike touring rig | ben.collins.outdoors

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s