Tom (OZ1AA) is a Danish ham/cyclist who has been biking pretty much around the planet for the past 4 years or so - see his adventures at www.cyclingtheglobe.com We'd been in touch via email when he was still in South America and his itinerary would have him passing though our area on Friday. So, I met him for lunch about halfway on his 70 mile day cycling between Temple Hills, MD (where he stayed with Fred K3ZO) and Sparks MD (where he would stay with Kam N3KS).
We had a nice lunch at Pasta Plus in Laurel, and I was so inspired that I set out to do the 63 mile loop at the Cumberland Valley Century ride the next day (actually I'd been signed up for months...)
This is the 29th year that the Cumberland Valley Cycling Club has put on this ride in the Williamsport/Boonsboro/Sharpsburg Tri-City Megalopolis and I think I did the third or fourth one back in the early 1990's and have done it a dozen or so times over the years - it is one of my favorite organized rides. Ripping rotator cuffs and detonating discs have kept me out of it for the past couple of years but all systems were a go this year.
About 4 or 5 years ago they changed the start to the San Mar Children's Home, which is the charity that the ride supports. Every since they did that, the route marking seems to be in some dialect of route markage that I just can't grok - two times in a row now I have turned the first 46 miles into 55-60 mile rides and never gotten to the final segment.
The map above shows the second segment, from the 20 mile rest stop in Williamsport to what was supposed to be the 46 mile mark at San Mar (I forgot to turn the app on when I left the start.) The first 20 miles was mostly through beautiful farm roads with nice surfaces in cool weather, though I lengthened it a bit when I was following a group of cyclists who blew by a turn and I wasn't paying attention to the markings... The last few miles into Williamsport featured going over I81 on a bridge under construction with no room for bikes and cars - had to hog the lane to prevent drivers from trying to squeeze by.
The route from that rest stop heads down towards the C&O Canal on many roads Carole and I had biked years ago on our C&O Canal through-ride, before the Dam 4 section was restored many years after Hurricane Agnes damage. I missed a turn there and went almost all the way down to the River before a "No Outlet" signed made me go "Huh?" and I turned around and slogged back uphill for a mile or two.
My next excitement came when I reached Taylor's Landing Road which parallels the Potomac River and the C&O Canal, and almost always has flast sections with surface similar to the moon and many short steep ups and downs. I saw the arrow marking the turn and turned right, but my spidey sense was saying I should be going downstream not upstream - but I ignored it since I had seen the marking.
That took me back uphill on some 25% inclines and looped me back to a road that I knew was in the entirely wrong direction - never ignore your spidey sense is the lesson here. Another 5 miles of riding got me back to Taylors Landing Road and that marking, which now had been mysteriously changed to point to the left! I joined up with an older cyclist who was slogging along as we hit the uphill patches, he gave me a running commentary on the steepness: "17%! 21% - ah, only 12%"
From there it was familiar roads past the Antietam Battlefield and into Sharpsburg, where I was pulled to have an impromptu stop at Rutters for ice cream, but I fought off the temptation. This segment always includes a 300 foot climb up Boonsboro Mountain (just west of Greenbriar State Park) followed by an almost equal descent that makes up for it.
When I pedaled back into San Mar, I had 55 miles on the clock and called it a day - after enjoying the fine food they had set out for the 300 or so cyclists who did the ride.