338 Miles, 9 Ladies, 4 days & 1 Slow Leak

I have had a lot of adventures over the years but this one definitely reaches podium level as I proudly scratch it off my bucket list.  It has been about a full year since Ryanne created the facebook event proposing a DC to Pittsburgh rails to trail ride this June.  Originally I was a “no”, thinking I could.. would never want to do that amount of rail to trail miles and wanted to save my vacation time for other adventures most likely with my boyfriend.  Then I got laid off.  Hmm.. schedule flexibility is high.  Open-mindness to new experiences is high.  Trip expenses were low.  Then I became a “maybe” as the event weekend approached wanting to keep my optimism high that my dream job could call any day and want me to start that week.  Since that didnt happened (yet) I signed on and confirmed the Monday (two days) before the trip that I was a belated “Hell to the Yeah!”  Let’s ride!!

So on Wednesday, June 13th, a posse of 7 fine looking ladies (yeah only 7.  not a typo) met up in Butler, PA and piled ourselves, bikes and lotsa gear up into two vehicles for the drive down to Washington, D.C. where we THEN met up with the beautiful, talented and just a smidge of crazy Ryanne Palermo and Stacie Truszkowski after they already rocked out the rails to trails from Pittsburgh to D.C. self supported with Ryo’s papa bear, Don a.k.a. the Hammer.  Don continued South from there and headed to the Carolina’s (by vehicle this time) for some family time, while the now 9 ladies got ready to push off and pedal back to the Burgh and the second vehicle became our ride support wagon!  Oh yeah!

Day 1: Bethesda, MD to Williamsport, MD ~ 108 miles. 

After wreaking havoc on some unsuspecting (just kidding, they actually knew we were coming) and very kind Bethesda residents we pushed off from their driveway, which was about 5-8 (I cant remember) miles away from the C&O Trail.  After much consideration driving into Georgetown to start from “Mile 0” was not worth the hour or more of DC traffic and it was basically a pleasant, downhill ride from their neighborhood to the Crescent Trail, which then connected us right onto the C&O Trail.  That works.. and word on the street is the “Mile 0” marker is all lame-o in a parking lot, behind a dumpster, covered in weeds.. no, poison ivy!  Meh!  Well, thats what we told ourselves since we were not getting to see it, hense, the “new Mile 0” was born…

A big thank you to Ken and Stephanie for letting us take over their wonderful and really large home.  The place housed all of us very comfortably with more than enough room to get lost and they also provided more breakfast foods than most B&Bs!  A shout out to Ken’s pancakes that I packed in my jersey pocket and enjoyed at our first pitstop and to Ryo’s tent.  She just had to camp out one night and rough it like the Palermo boy’s did…

We ride.  I am certain everyone would agree that The Great Falls was by far one of the most beautiful stops on the trip.  I had no idea this even existed and was just mesmerized by its awesomeness.  I cant wait to take my mom there next time we visit my bro!  Make sure you go all the way to the end of the walkway.  Just when you think you saw it all the awesome meter just about explodes when you reach the final platform.  Seriously.  Pictures never do justice.

We had two detours off the path this day.  One being a short jaunt along a parallel path, but the other took us 6 miles onto some rolling country roads that I actually loved.  The time of day, temperature, summer smells, beautiful homes and smooth pavement were a delicious treat after the steady bumps, roots and mud puddles the C&O offered us most of the day.   Once we rolled back onto the C&O we had about 10 miles left before we rolled into Williamsport and bee lined it to Outback Steakhouse where we feasted like a posse of Queens.  Hungry, hungry queens.. with Ron!  

Ron (a papa bear to one rider, husband to another and ride support to everyone else) was a seriously awesome guy and really went above and beyond for all of us.  He chauffeured our gear around daily, chauffeured us around post rides daily, and provided us with cold drinks and snickers bars at each daily finish line!  Holy Moses, can I get an Amen!?  He was kind, helpful, patient, entertaining and all things awesome throughout the whole trip!  I’m not sure if he would agree to do it again, but he really was the icing on this cake of a trip!  Thanks for everything, Ron!  🙂

At one point during the day I hit a bump and felt my front rim.  Uh oh. I’m flatting.  I stopped and decided to add some air with my trusty, mini pump.  The tire seemed to be holding so we pushed off and I kept an eye on it wondering how long it would last.

We had lunch at Beans in the Belfry in Brunswick, MD.  I highly recommend it!  Really great food and very cool atmosphere.  (As long as your not in a rush since it is made to order fresh eats, which we were not and I LOVED that about this trip!)

My last, but far from least day 1 highlight is a loud and proud shout out to Tanya, Stacie McG and AP for completing their first 100 miler rides ever on this day.  Stoked to be a part of it!! 

Day 2: Williamsport, MD to Cumberland, MD ~ 87 miles.

Tunnels!!  Maybe it was the excitement of the dark unknown ahead (but I am normally a big scaredy cat) or maybe it was just the change of scenery.  Either way I loved going through the tunnels! 

We had to have our lights for day 2 and the Paw Paw Tunnel.  It was very dark, fairly wet and seemingly air conditioned as we traveled on the narrow walkway along the tunnel’s side.  The terrain was uneven and kept it interesting to bike through and attempt to pass oncoming riders.  I wanted to trust the railing was OSHA approved, but when I saw Ryanne have to lean on and use it when riders walked past us I straight held my breath (*GASP*) and prayed that thing was gonna hold!  Eek!  All was well (*exhale*) and we regrouped on the other side and pushed off for more.  (Yeah, I got this “thing” with heights, that is progressively getting worse the older I get, and is additionally amped up when the height, or in this case depth, is unknown into a dark abyss!  Not to be dramatic or anything.) 

The next tunnel was not nearly as picturesque and provided lighting and a paved surface.  It was still fun and exciting to me.  The cool air and loud acoustics provided some short term entertainment for everyone as we hooted and sang our way through.  A third tunnel we got to ride through (I think on day 3) provided the coolest experience for me.  It was short enough we did not need lights but it was not lit up inside either, the pavement was smooth and I just focused on the riders ahead to maintain speed and not bump into anyone.  I do not think I have ever felt like I was flying more than in this moment!  The tunnel was dark enough I couldnt even see my bike if I looked down, the pavement was perfectly smooth and the pedal strokes were effortless, the wind was cool and refreshing and for what might have only been 30 seconds to possibly a minute felt like I was weightless and a true sense of gliding through the air came over me.  It seriously ruled. I have no idea if anyone enjoyed it like I did, but it was really amazing and another favorite moment for me!

I am pretty sure we all started to fizzle some by the end of day 2 with conversations and laughter quieting and everyone becoming more focused on the goal at hand.  (Hey, if this trip was THAT easy we all wouldnt be such bad asses right now, would we?  Exactly.)  We might have all been feeling it on day 1 also, but as we were approaching our second century of the trip it felt like all focus and effort went into each pedal stroke until we reached our finish line for the day and the end of the C&O Canal Towpath.  I recall it being pretty glorious for all of us as we sprawled out in the Marriot parking lot feasting on Cokes, Stellas (“STELLAAAAAAA!”)  and Snickers bars.  Yes!

Day 3: Cumberland, MD to Confluence, PA ~ 64 miles

Onto the GAP or Great Allegheny Passage we go.. with a “mile 0” marker & everything!

Day 3 provided our first and only “major” climb of the entire ride.  At only a 1.5% max grade you normally wouldnt think much of it, but with some less experienced endurance riders, 200 miles already in our legs and almost 30 miles with this grade I think we were all feeling curious how it was going to go!  I’ll sum it up by saying everyone rocked the trail world and we really held an excellent pace the entire climb!  Awww yeah, ladies!  With one pitstop at Frostburg for a quick bathroom break and snack we reached the Eastern Continental Divide quicker than expected and enjoyed our success with some pictures and an unexpected surprise! 

Until you are the “host/ess, event planner, race director, ring leader, person in charge of stuff”, it is ALWAYS really hard if not impossible to FULLY appreciate the efforts that need taken to make things happen.  If you doubt this fact then I shall deem you a “follower” and not a “leader”, because its 200% true.  I am beyond grateful for Ryanne’s amazing efforts to not only provide our detailed daily itinerary, but booked our hotels, lined up our food options for each day and night, handled taking care of bills in advance and collect funds later (which always seems to cost that person more in the end. bummer.) AND (*sound the trumpets please*) she managed to surprise ALL of us with letters from our loved ones when we reached the crest and highest point of our entire trip!!  So amazing! I straight got goosebumps just typing that and I LIVED it!!  Did you get goosebumps reading it!?  🙂

A few of us (4) are competitive riders and have years of experience taking on crazy endeavors like this, but the rest of our group (5) were not as experienced and this was by far one of the most physically and mentally challenging experiences they were taking on in life!!  HOW EXCITING!!!  Letters from husbands, boyfriends, parents, children and bestest friends were read by all of us as we soaked up our shared victory of the day looking out to the panoramic vista in front of us!  I’ll just sum it up with saying that a few tears were shed might be putting it lightly!  We’re such girls!   Bad ass yet sensitive girls!  😉

The rest of the went very fast as we decended down into Confluence.  We got to cross a few beautifully long bridges catering just to the trail users.  So nice!   We also had a surprise visit from our friend and originally intended 10th rider, Jenny, who was unable to attend the full trip due to medical reasons.  She is on the mend and was able to join us for the finish of the day!!  Such a pleasant surprise!  🙂

Day 4:  Confluence, PA to Homestead/Pittsburgh, PA ~ 79 miles

The last day felt like it went very fast, excluding lunch, but I digress…  Since we were all pro’s by this day it was just a matter of hashing out another 79 miles, right?  Whatev.  I cannot speak for how everyone might have truly felt by this day in our journey, but everyone rode great and we went through the day with smiles and an ever growing feeling of accomplishment the closer we got to the Homestead Waterfront and our final finish line of the trip!

One of the best things about any race or riding adventure is the amazing people I get to met and share the experiences and memories with them.  It is a great feeling to push myself and see what I am actually capable of doing when I put my mind to it, but getting to share in this experience with so many amazing women and being able to share with them and watch them learn what they are capable of doing was by far my favorite part of this entire endeavor! 

From left to right:  Stacie and Ryo!  The beautiful, talented and a smidge crazy two girls that completed the trip in both directions finishing with 750 miles under their belts and in their legs!  Congratulations ladies!!  I freaking love you two!!

Veronica!  Ryo’s mama bear and a cycling force not to be reckoned with!  I am so impressed with your sexy and bad ass ways!!  I totally see where Ryo gets it now.  Much Love. Congratulations Veronica!! 

Sheila!  The shortest rider at an adorable 4′-10 or 11″ and who actually expressed concern when she heard my racer self was going to be there.  ha!  Hey, I felt concerned with the idea of keeping up with those Palermo ladies!  Have you seen their track record lately!?  I really enjoyed our conversations and stories throughout the whole trip!  Much love. Congratulations Sheila!!

Tanya!  You adorable woman!  So soft and sweet spoken I felt like I wanted you to read me a story.  haha.  With obvious concern from your dad and probably others (including yourself) if you would be able to do it or not.  I am so, so proud of you for not only completing the journey, but doing it better than you probably ever expected!  I think your awesome!  Much love.  Congratulations Tanya!

Stacie McG!  Girl, You are so my kinda funny!  I thoroughly enjoyed your sense of humor and genuine attitude and honesty throughout the whole trip!   I think you are awesome and I think your family is awesome!   Much love!  Congratulations McG! 

Cheryl!  aka AP’s mama bear.  You probably do not know how much I adored your company on this trip!  I think you are so beyond sweet and kind and I just loved your presence every minute I got to be around you.  It was a true pleasure getting to know you and your husband!   Much love.  Congratulations Cheryl!

A to the P!!!!!!!!!   You obviously can accomplish anything you put your mind to.  I am so glad to have had the opportunity to get to ride and hang with you!  I truly enjoyed your company and would love to ride and hang any time you want.  I know its easier said than done  to cross paths with such different lives, but I know I will see you around in the trails and I really look forward to it!  Best of luck in all you do, but you dont really need it.  You know whats up.   Much, much love and Congratulations AP!

The End!  With a few more pics just because…

Oh yeah, after four days and 338 miles my slow leaking tire never flatted and I completed the whole trip on the same tube with a daily refill or two.  Good stuff!  However, I did leave out the details that I flatted my back tire in Day 1 or 2.  Such is a riders life.   We only had one other flat and needed to adjust some brakes.  No other bike issues to be had.  Sweet.

My advice for this trip?  Dont forget your bug spray.

The End! 😉

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