Summary – day 13 – Cumberland to Frederick (Tuesday 02 July)

Estimated mileage: 89 miles, actual: 91.93 miles

Avg. speed: 14.1 mph

Cumulative distance: 846.35 miles

Last night, while we were all in bed asleep, there was a terrific crash at about 12:15 am. Next door in Mike’s (McL) room a framed picture fell off the wall and smashed on the floor! There was glass everywhere. The hotel staff were fine about it – and laughed when we said that we’d had a wild party! They told us that it was probably one of their resident ghosts – funny they hadn’t told us about them last night!

The main task when we got up this morning was to get all the dirt and dust from the cycle trail cleaned off our bicycles and ready for the day ahead. Matthew and Mike (McL) had determined that our destination should be Frederick as our destination – about 89 miles away. Between Cumberland and Frederick there were the absolutely ginormous hills, though – we’d have to take those carefully.

The Cumberland Hotel and Spa offered various treatments and one of staff told Mike (McL) that he smelled dehydrated! Whatever that means! He’s been chugging back water ever since! We had to go for breakfast and Mark’s café in the centre of town was recommended. It was really good – they had soya milk and made my oats with it. I was asked if I wanted ‘craisons’ – I assumed this would be a mix of cranberries and raisins, but they turned out to be sweetened dried cranberries.

While we were having breakfast Mike (McL) went to a bike shop to top up the air in his tyre. While he was there he talked to the staff about our route and was advised that it was probably the best way to go given that we’re riding bicycle with narrow tyres.

Meanwhile we took advantage of the free Wifi in Mark’s Café to FaceTime Mam and Janet – it was nice to be in touch with family back home and show them where we were.

We set off out of Cumberland and the road undulated before a series of slow, hard climbs then fast swooping descents: Rocky Gap and then down to Flintstone (accompanied by Matthew ‘singing’). Then up Green Ridge, a quick descent and on to the monster of the day: Town Hill – we took some pictures from the Town Hill Overlook, (while we recovered!). Then down and up Sidelong Hill for a descent into Hancock where we paused for lunch. We met two other cyclists who were riding from Pittsburgh to Washington DC . One told us about a 20 mile trail that we might have used! There was about 5 miles left she thought. We were surprisingly sanguine about this news – there was nothing we could do now, but we thought that we might make use of the trail as it would take us off the road for a while.

We bought provisions in a petrol station Sheetz – this is third one that we’ve used on this trip (see Matthew’s post about this). They have free wifi and it’s usually possible to find some stuff that I can eat. We took our food to a local park and picnic spot (adjacent to the elusive bicycle trail).

There were some young men hanging out at the park – mostly complaining about being bored. “This town is sheet. There’s nevva nuthin’ to do” that sort of thing. They were impressed with our journey though and had the good grace to acknowledge that the cycle trails had brought life and a certain amount if prosperity to the town; they also thought that tourists had the effect of driving up prices.

We went up onto the trail, which ran for more like ten miles rather than 5. We had our first proper look at the Potomac River, which runs through Washington DC – exciting. I fantasised about finding a little rowing boat and sitting in it until we carried into Washington DC (“Or the mid-Atlantic!”, Matthew retorted!). In any case, of course, that would be cheating.

The trail went to Big Pool and rejoined the road to go past Fort Frederick State Park. Then on to something of a roller-coaster road in to Williamsport where we called at the Desert Rose Café for a break and drinks – they had a copy of Canal Quarterly! That made Matthew very happy! The staff there said that half of their summer trade was people on bicycles. They also said that Mike (McL) looked like he was too tired to go on!

The countryside was really beautiful now – we rode alongside Antietam Creek over little hump-back bridges and past ponds near the Devil’s Backbone Park.

A series of historic quintessentially American civil war era towns – all with lots of buildings and houses decorated for 4th July. Boonsboro, Middletown, Braddock Heights and final (we hope) very hilly up and down to Frederick.

Mike (McL) had been to Frederick before and said it was an attractive place, (the outskirts were not – acres of very wide roads, stop-start junctions, food outlets, malls etc.), but we decided to take a look at the downtown area before searching for a hotel. It was really nice – lots of old stone and wood buildings – some quite grand. There was a real lively buzz about the place. As we cycled through the main street- Market Street, we were cheered by some lads on the pavement/sidewalk. One of then shouted: “Lance Armstrong!” Funny! We wondered which of us had been taking the most stimulants throughout the day – and decided it was Mike (McL), he’d virtually survived on energy gels!

Garmin came into his own in Frederick – I called up a list of hotels and there was a Hampton Hotel less than 2 miles away. Garmin took us there and they had a room with two queen-size beds that we could all three share.

While I was waiting for my turn in the shower, my sister Lisa called on FaceTime – it was 1 am back in the UK – she was a but the worse for wear, having fun with her friend and when she caught sight of Mike (McL) thought that he looked like Action Man – hilarious!, But he said that he was happy to take that! Lisa is planning a ‘Monopoly run’ at the weekend with some of her club mates: the aim is to run through London and go to every point on the London-themed Monopoly board. She’s doing it to raise money for cancer charities and I asked her how it was going – she has over £1,000 already. Amazing. Good on you, sis!

Near the hotel there was a Weis supermarket and we went there to pick up food for dinner. On the way back we heard a thud on the road by the junction – a car had hit another – they drove into the car park looking cross and the little red sports car looked pretty badly mangled. Prompting a conversation about how the US might reduce its dependence on the car!

Back in our room and time to catch up on the Archers podcasts – listening made difficult with Mike (McL) making comments and/or asking questions about characters and plots every minute and with Matthew too obligingly providing long convoluted explanations about who everyone was, their relationship to each other and what had happened to them – this is the longest-running radio soap opera in history … and it was going to be a long night!

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